Numerous studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can protect the heart, reduce the risk of cancer and even control diabetes, now it appears that it can also protect brain health.
According to a new study published in the current issue of Archives of Neurology, a Mediterranean diet can reduce small blood vessel damage in the brain.
Researchers report that a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a reduced burden of white matter hyperintesity volume (WMHV). White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) that are visible on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are markers of chronic small vessel damage and can predict an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues evaluated data from 966 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) a research study of stroke and stroke risk factors in the Northern Manhattan community. They were given a questionnaire to assess their diet during the previous year, and compliance with the Mediterranean diet. They underwent a brain MRI to measure WMHV.
Participants who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely, had a lower burden of WMHV and this was independent of sociodemographic and vascular risk factors including physical activity, smoking, blood lipid levels, hypertension, diabetes, history of heart disease and BMI.
The researchers reported these results may be driven by the favorable ratio of monounsaturated fat consumption over saturated fat. In other words a higher intake of monounsaturated fat, the type of fat that is found in olive oil, appears to be a factor in the protection of small vessel damage. However, the authors added that the results of the analysis suggest that the overall dietary pattern, rather than any of the individual components, may be more important.