New research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev shows that switching to a green Mediterranean diet can improve brain health.
Weight loss can also slow down brain aging. This was found in a sub-study of the DIRECT-PLUS study.
The DIRECT PLUS study
The DIRECT-PLUS study was a long-term study over 18 months with 300 participants.
Prof. Galia Avidan from the Department of Psychology and Dr. Gidon Levakov, who studied at the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, conducted a smaller study as part of this large study. Their findings were recently published in a journal called eLife.
The main study was conducted by Prof. Iris Shai from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev together with her former student Dr. Alon Kaplan and other researchers from the Universities of Harvard and Leipzig.
Link between obesity and brain aging
Obesity, or severe overweight, is related to our brain aging faster than it should.
Researchers can calculate a person’s “brain age” — how old their brain looks on detailed scans, regardless of their actual age. This method also helps to see how things like lifestyle can affect brain aging.
Levakov, Kaplan, Shai and Avidan studied 102 obese people.
At the beginning and end of the program, participants underwent a brain scan; Other tests and measurements were also being conducted at this time to study other biological processes affected by obesity, such as liver health.
Results: Losing weight can make your brain younger
The researchers used the brain scans taken at the beginning and end of the study to see how lifestyle changes affected brain aging.
The results showed that with a 1% reduction in body weight, the participants’ brain ages were almost 9 months younger than expected at 18 months.
This slower aging was associated with changes in other biological parameters, such as less liver fat and liver enzymes.
It has previously been shown that excess liver fat and certain liver enzymes impair brain health in Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our study shows how important a healthy lifestyle is for brain health,” says Dr. Levakov. “We were thrilled to find that just 1% weight loss was enough to make the brain nine months younger,” says Prof. Avidan.
The results show that lifestyle changes that help people lose weight can slow the brain aging associated with obesity.
Next steps include finding out if slowing this brain aging leads to better health outcomes for patients. The study also suggests a possible way to test whether lifestyle changes improve brain health.
As more and more people around the world become obese, finding ways to improve brain health could have big implications.
What is a Green Mediterranean Diet?
The researchers of the DIRECT-PLUS study were the first to propose the idea of a green Mediterranean diet high in polyphenols.
This diet differs from the standard Mediterranean diet as it contains more polyphenols (phytochemicals that are good for our health) and less red/processed meat.
People on a Green Mediterranean diet ate 28 grams of walnuts daily. They also drank 3-4 cups of green tea and 1 cup of Wolffia globosa (Mankai) green duckweed shake every day for 18 months.
The green aquatic plant mankai is rich in iron, B12, 200 kinds of polyphenols and proteins, making it a good meat substitute.
If you care about the health of your brain, please read studies about it how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, And Vitamin B supplements could help reduce the risk of dementia.
For more information on brain health, see recent studies Cranberries may help boost memoryand many older people suffer from this non-Alzheimer’s dementia.
The study was published in eLife.
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