In a new study, researchers found that eating a Mediterranean diet that is rich in fish, vegetables and olive oil may protect your brain from protein build-up and shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
The study looked at abnormal proteins called amyloid and tau. Amyloid is a protein that forms into plaques, while tau is a protein that forms into tangles.
Both are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease but may also be found in the brains of older people with normal cognition.
The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, and a low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products and meat.
The team examined 512 people. Of those, 169 were cognitively normal, while 343 were identified as being at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
They looked at how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet based on their answers to a questionnaire asking how much they ate of 148 items over the previous month.
The team found that in the area of the brain most closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease, every point lower people scored on the Mediterranean diet scale was equal to almost one year of brain aging.
When looking at amyloid and tau in people’s spinal fluid, those who did not follow the diet closely had higher levels of biomarkers of amyloid and tau pathology than those who did.
When it came to a test of memory, people who did not follow the diet closely scored worse than those who did.
The study suggests that eating a diet that’s high in unsaturated fats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in dairy and red meat may actually protect the brain from the protein build-up that can lead to memory loss and dementia.
These results add to the body of evidence that shows what people eat may influence their memory skills later on.
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The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Tommaso Ballarini, Ph.D.
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