Healthy midlife diets linked to lower dementia risk, study finds

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Recent research has unveiled a compelling connection between a healthy diet during middle age and increased brain volume, suggesting that dietary choices in midlife could potentially mitigate the risk of dementia and other degenerative brain disorders as individuals age.

Dr. Helen Macpherson from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) spearheaded this study, which investigated the dietary habits and brain volumes of adults aged between 40 and 65.

The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, underscore the significance of lifelong healthy eating habits in safeguarding against neurodegeneration as people grow older.

The Study’s Insights

Dr. Macpherson’s research revealed that individuals who maintained a healthy diet characterized by a diverse range of foods, including ample servings of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beneficial oils, exhibited more grey matter and larger overall brain volume than those with less health-conscious dietary patterns.

These results hold profound implications because they imply that establishing and adhering to healthy eating habits should commence well before old age to optimize the defense against dementia risk.

The Role of Brain Volume in Assessing Brain Health

Brain volume serves as a vital indicator of brain health, especially given that there are no blood tests capable of detecting dementia during midlife.

Starting from middle age and continuing into old age, brain volume gradually decreases relative to head size, with increased brain shrinkage often preceding the onset of dementia.

Therefore, the research highlights the need to address diet quality proactively to enhance the odds of reducing dementia risk.

The study harnessed data from nearly 20,000 participants in the UK Biobank, a global database containing genetic and health information from half a million individuals.

Participants underwent diet recall analysis and received MRI scans to assess their brain volume. The research analyzed three metrics of diet quality.

Dietary Patterns Examined

The study assessed the Mediterranean Diet Score, which gauges the alignment of individuals’ diets with the Mediterranean diet—a dietary pattern extensively studied in relation to dementia risk and brain health.

Additionally, the research evaluated how closely participants’ diets adhered to dietary guidelines, including those from the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO guidelines advocate for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein sources, while discouraging the consumption of processed or junk food.

The Mediterranean diet also encourages whole grains and fish consumption while limiting red meat. The research found that both dietary patterns—Mediterranean and WHO-recommended—yielded positive outcomes.

Gender Discrepancy in the Impact of Diet on Brain Volume

Interestingly, the study unveiled that the association between diet and brain volume was more pronounced in men than in women.

While this gender difference merits further investigation, the overall findings suggest that midlife represents a crucial life stage for addressing unhealthy eating habits.

This proactive approach to dietary choices can not only reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease but also protect brain health.


In conclusion, this research underscores the pivotal role of healthy diets during middle age in preserving brain health, reducing dementia risk, and maintaining brain volume.

These findings emphasize the importance of adopting and sustaining lifelong healthy eating habits, beginning well before old age, to optimize cognitive well-being as individuals advance in years.

Following WHO dietary guidelines emerges as a promising starting point for promoting brain health and overall well-being.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about Scientists find a simple solution to fight dementia and findings of Big causes of memory loss, dementia you need to know.

For more information about dementia, please see recent studies about Brain food: nourishing your mind to outsmart dementia and results showing that Re-evaluating the role of diet in dementia risk.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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