A Huge study from the Netherlands found that people who have eaten vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish have larger brains than their malnourished people.
Dr. Meike Vernooij, a senior author of the study, said: “To adhere to the overall quality of a healthy diet can support brain health and may be a suitable preventive strategy for maintaining and enhancing the cognitive, [thinking and memory] of healthy elderly people.” She is Erasmus in Rotterdam. Professor of Population Imaging at University Medical Center.
The study included over 4,200 people aged 45 and over from the very beginning. The researchers said that the average age is 66 years old.
Research volunteers completed a survey to find out what type of food they had eaten in the past month and how much food they had eaten. The survey included nearly 400 food products.
The researchers looked at the quality of the diet according to the Dutch dietary guidelines. Diet quality was measured on a scale of zero to 14, of which the healthiest was 14.
Researchers say that the best diet contains a lot of fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, dairy products and fish, and limited sugary drinks.
The study found that the average diet score was 7 points.
Participants also performed MRI scans to measure their brain size. It also collected information about other factors that may affect the brain, such as high blood pressure, physical activity, and smoking.
After adjusting the data to account for these factors, the researchers found that higher dietary scores were associated with greater brain volume. The brain of the healthiest person is about 2 ml less than those who eat less healthy food.
Does the difference in 2 ml (mL) in the brain actually translate into better thinking and memory? The researchers said this seems to be the case.
“As we all know, as we grow older, the risk of cognitive decline will increase, and as we get older, our brain volume will decrease,” Vernooij said.
“In our population, an increase in one year’s age was associated with a reduction of 3.66 ml in total volume, so we found that the difference in brain volume was an order of magnitude the same as when age was increased by approximately six months for those who were not healthy,” she explained.
But Vernooij also pointed out that this research cannot prove causality; it is only designed to find the connection between diet and brain.
When researchers studied the so-called Mediterranean diet – a plan that was also full of produce, fish, and nuts, they found similar results. A healthier diet was associated with a larger brain.
How does a good diet help the brain?
Good nutrition for teenagers – when the brain is developing and growing – may result in a bigger brain. The researchers said that researchers who eat healthy diets during the study may start eating healthy from a young age.
James Hendricks, director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s global science program, said healthy eating habits may lead to better blood flow.
“We think that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. If your heart works well and the brain has good blood flow, the brain will work better,” he said.
“One hypothesis for Alzheimer’s disease is that the accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins is because they are not properly cleared, probably because the brain needs good blood flow to remove these proteins,” he suggests.
Hendrix said that it is important to note that there is no change in a healthy food, but an overall healthy diet.
“In the United States, we like to find simple answers, but this means that everything is what you eat, so we put some fish, green leafy vegetables and whole grains in your diet,” he said.
The results were published online on May 16 in the Journal of Neurology.