Posted on Jun 02, 2023, 6 p.m.
The Mediterranean diet has been getting pretty consistent attention over the years, this diet has been linked to a variety of health benefits. According to a study recently published in eLife conducted by researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and colleagues from Harvard and Leipzig Universities, the Mediterranean Diet can add slowing down brain aging to the list of beneficial effects.
The researchers report that in an 18-month clinical trial involving 300 participants a body weight reduction of 1% led to the participants' brain age being close to 9 months younger than their expected biological brain age after 18 months, and the reduced aging was in line with other biological metrics such as lower liver fat and enzymes.
It is well known that carrying extra weight is not healthy, in fact, obesity is typically associated with faster brain aging, leading to quicker cognitive decline. Brain age can be calculated by using detailed scans in order to track how lifestyle factors influence brain aging over short periods of time, regardless of chronological age. Higher liver fat levels and elevated liver enzymes are also associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, making these markers important to this type of research.
For this study, the researchers conducted brain scans of 102 people classified as obese at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the 18-month Mediterranean diet program. Information was also collected on other things that are affected by obesity such as liver health.
“We were encouraged to find that even a weight loss of 1% was sufficient to affect brain health and lead to a 9-month reduction in brain age,” says Professor Galia Avidan, of the Department of Psychology.
This study introduced the plant-based green-Mediterranean diet to the participants. This is a modified version of the traditional Mediterranean diet which emphasizes polyphenols that offer several health benefits. On this diet, the participants consumed 28 grams of walnuts, 3-4 cups of green tea, and 1 cup of Wolffia-globosa Mankai plant green shake of duckweed per day which is rich in iron, B12, protein, and 200 kinds of polyphenols. Mankai is a rich source of plant-based protein, the content is a suitable substitute for meat according to the researchers.
“Our study highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including lower consumption of processed food, sweets, and beverages, in maintaining brain health,” says Dr. Gidon Levakov, a former graduate student at the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences.
The researchers believe that their findings add to a growing body of evidence supporting focusing on a healthy diet for optimal brain health as well as the prevention of cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The findings also show that lifestyle interventions that promote weight loss can have a beneficial impact on obesity-related brain aging.
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