February 09, 2010

People who eat a Mediterranean-like diet less likely to have brain infarcts

Mediterranean diet may lower risk of brain damage that causes thinking problems
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Mediterranean diet may help people avoid the small areas of brain damage that can lead to problems with thinking and memory, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10 to April 17, 2010.

The study found that people who ate a Mediterranean-like diet were less likely to have brain infarcts, or small areas of dead tissue linked to thinking problems.

The Mediterranean diet includes high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil; low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat and poultry; and mild to moderate amounts of alcohol.

For the study, researchers assessed the diets of 712 people in New York and divided them into three groups based on how closely they were following the Mediterranean diet. Then they conducted MRI brain scans of the people an average of six years later. A total of 238 people had at least one area of brain damage.

Those who were most closely following a Mediterranean-like diet were 36 percent less likely to have areas of brain damage than those who were least following the diet. Those moderately following the diet were 21 percent less likely to have brain damage than the lowest group.

"The relationship between this type of brain damage and the Mediterranean diet was comparable with that of high blood pressure," said study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, MSc, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "In this study, not eating a Mediterranean-like diet had about the same effect on the brain as having high blood pressure."

Previous research by Scarmeas and his colleagues showed that a Mediterranean-like diet may be associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and may lengthen survival in people with Alzheimer's disease. According to the present study, these associations may be partially explained by fewer brain infarcts.


Marnie said...

Additional thoughts on longevity and lowered rate of alzheimers for Meditarranean diet and lifestyle:

Meat is traditionally "grass-fed."

Eggs are from chicken's that are "grass-fed".

People engaged in moderate physical activity on a daily basis: tending animals, garden, hauling water.

People do not defeat their natural diurnal pattern as much.

People have more opportunity to be social.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dieneke, tbh I am not much impressed by such studies. I will tell you why.

high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil; low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat and poultry; and mild to moderate amounts of alcohol.

The above sounds like a typical natural bodybuilder`s diet (natural means no steroids) minus the alcohol ofc. I don`t smoke and I don`t drink anything with alcohol in it, ever, and so do many (if not most) bodybuilders. Also, I don`t eat red meat and I eat poultry only sparingly.

I do eat lots and lots of fish though, esp sardines, tuna, and salmon.

Now, when BB are in a cutting phase (i.e. when we lower our body fat percentage to below 9% for males), they tend to eliminate mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil from their diet, and they replace it with Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplements.

From personal experience, I haven`t noticed any side-effects from dropping olive oil for short periods of time. I am a bit sceptical towards using olive oil for fitness/bb purposes, HOWEVER natural extra virgin olive oil of the kind we produce here in Greece is definitely by far the healthiest mono-unsaturated natural fat one can eat, and I do eat it regularly while in maintenance phase, only in very small quantities (like four tablespoons per day).

Here in Greece, we tend to overeat olive oil and that is not healthy. For ex, I remember how my mother used to cook and she would use way, way too much olive oil in almost everything she cooked. That gave foods a lot of taste, but it is very unhealthy, as triglycerides and calories tend to go through the roof.

In my humble opinion, the positive effects noted by the study, are to be attributed directly to the Omega 3 fatty acids found in extra virgin olive oil, which have wide positive effects in many sections of our body.

Scandinavians on the other hand who almost never eat Olive Oil, are protected too because they -typically- consume quite some fatty fish (so I saw in Finland), and fish is a staple of their diet. Fatty fish such as salmon is rich in omega 3 fa`s.

Americans/Canadians though, who typically never eat olive oil (unless they are of Med extraction) and they also hardly ever eat fish are in danger of several health risks mostly due to omega 3 deficiency.

Best regards,


Marnie said...


I'm a little skeptical about the hyped North American version of the Mediterranean diet, as well.

Since you are actually in Greece, I can tell you that I've been quite weirded out by the longevity and lack of alzheimer's of some of the villagers from my husband's traditional village in Central Northern Greece.

I wouldn't say that their diet met the North American conception of a "Mediterranean" diet.

Actually, I'd say that they often had to eat a disastrous amount of salt, sausages and not much fish.

I suspect that their longevity would have to do with both lifestyle and diet choices. (Maybe genetics.) Don't forget the Tsipouro.

Oh! And Mountain Tea! They would ask me to add that. Want some? I know it is probably good for me, but I would really rather have a latte.

Thanks for making me laugh about the overuse of olive. It is really rather horrifying, isn't it.

PDM said...

Yes the Mediterranean Diet is healthy, the French Diet is healthy, leading to the "French Paradox", the Inuit Eskimo diet consisting of large amounts of seal blubber rather than leading to heart attacks by age 40 is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and is healthy. All of these are traditional diets. Weston Price in the 1940s went around the world and documented the health benefits of geographically varied traditional diets as opposed to modern, Western, developed diets. The key finding is the diets all actually consist of food as opposed to aspartame and yellow dye #3.

There’s an interesting post over at the Health Journal Club that makes the case that people should just not eat anything that wasn’t a food 100 years ago. Gets rid of the aspartame, bleached GM flour, high fructose corn syrup garbage they try to pass off as food these days. If interested you can read on it here,


Marnie said...

"The key finding is the diets all actually consist of food as opposed to aspartame and yellow dye #3."

Oh thank you!

Julia Child had it right. She was hassled her whole life for saying you could eat butter and eggs.

Here's an idea: The Scottish Diet! Fish, oatmeal, scones, grassfed sheep stomachs, butter, eggs and leek/chicken soup + Scotch!

I'm sure that if I was suitably inclined and suitably capitalized, I could make a marketing splash out of that.

Luckily, I am not.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

One area where there is evidence of genetic differences between populations is in how we respond to foods (lactose tolerance differences being the most common example).

New York has lots of Mediteranean descent people in its population mix, and it wouldn't be unlikely that people of Mediteranean descent find it easier to keep with a diet that draws from their own family heritage than other people. I'd be curious to see if Scandinavian or West African descendants do as well with Mediteranean diets as people with Mediteranean descent do.

I'd like to see the data broken out by origins above and below the historical olive oil-butter line.

Marnie said...

Hi Andrew,

I'd say that the need for a diet rich in omega three fatty acids and low in triglycerides is not specific to one particular population.

It is surprising how universal a high omega three fatty acid diet appears to be. The source, of course, is highly varied and dependant on the local geography. (Check out the Inuit diet, the west coast Salish and Haida salmon diet, the fish diets of Northern Europe, and the fish/chicken/yam/cassava/plantain/groundnut oil diets of West Africa.)