A new study by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that a healthy lifestyle based on a green Mediterranean diet could slow down the aging process in the brain.
The green Mediterranean diet differs from the regular Mediterranean diet due to high amounts of dietary polyphenols (phytochemicals, secondary metabolites of plant compounds that offer various health benefits) and lower quantities of red and processed meat.
The researchers examined 102 individuals who met the criteria for obesity, which is believed to age the brain faster than normal. The researchers calculated the subjects’ “brain age” before the start of the study using detailed scans and repeated the process after the individuals had undergone a series of lifestyle changes over the next 18 months.
The results suggest that lifestyle interventions that promote weight loss can have a beneficial impact on the aging process of the brain. A 1 percent reduction in body weight rejuvenated the participants’ brain age by almost nine months.
Weight loss-related reduction in liver fat also appears to be a contributing factor since high levels of liver fat and production of specific liver enzymes were previously shown to negatively affect brain health.
The research was part of a wider Direct Plus study. The findings were published in the eLife scientific journal.
The sub-study was conducted by Prof. Galia Avidan of the Department of Psychology and Gidon Levakov, a former graduate student at the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences.
“Our study highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including lower consumption of processed foods, sweets and [sweet] beverages, in maintaining brain health,” said Levakov.
“We were encouraged to find that even a weight loss of 1% was sufficient to affect brain health and lead to a nine-month reduction in brain age,” added Avidan.