Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

PLEASE HOLD THE SHAKE ‘N BURGER, PLEASE

February 9, 2010

Hold them, that is, if you want to avoid small areas of brain damage that can lead to problems with thinking and memory in later life. Instead, stick with a Mediterranean diet with a healthy dose of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, and monosaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, and go easy on the dairy products, meat and poultry, and saturated fatty acids. But you can keep that glass a wine.

So says a just-released study that 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.

The folks who stuck most closely to a Mediterranean-like diet were 36 percent less likely to have infarcts, small areas of brain damage, than those who wandered furthest from the diet. Those moderately following the diet were 21 percent less likely to have brain damage than the lowest group.

“In this study, not eating a Mediterranean-like diet had about the same effect on the brain as having 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.  The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10 to April 17, 2010. 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.

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