People who follow a Mediterranean diet seem to retain more brain volume as they age, compared to people who don’t follow this diet. A recent study from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, published in the journal Neurology, followed 967 people without dementia, around age 70, testing them at 3 years and again at 6 years. The subjects had an MRI brain scan at each follow-up. The scans measured overall brain volume, grey matter volume and thickness of the brain’s cortex. The measurements were compared to how closely the subjects followed a Mediterranean diet. People who didn’t follow the diet closely were found to have a higher loss of brain volume that people who followed it more closely. The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain volume, such as such as age, education, and having diabetes or high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that the diet may be able to provide long-term protection for the brain, but more studies are needed to confirm the results.
The Mediterranean Diet includes large amounts of vegetables and fruits, olive oil, beans, cereal grain such as wheat and rice, moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine, and limited amounts of meat.
Diverticulitis A recent study from Harvard, published in the journal Gut, suggests that eating red meat is associated with an increased risk for developing diverticulitis. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system. They are found most often in the lower part of the large intestine – the colon. Diverticula may never cause problems. However, one or more of these pouches may become inflamed or infected; this condition is known as diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and a marked change in your bowel habits. Mild diverticulitis can be treated with rest, changes in your diet and antibiotics. Severe or recurring diverticulitis may require surgery. The Harvard researchers analyzed health and diet information reported by more than 46,000 men over 26 years. Men who ate the most red meat per week (about 13 servings) were 58% more likely to develop diverticulitis during the study period, compared to men who ate the least red meat. The association was strongest with steak. The risk went down when people in the study substituted poultry or fish for red meat. Dr. Andrew Chan, the lead author of this study, wrote “There is an idea that there is some pro-inflammatory state mediated by red meat that could contribute to inflammation in certain organs, Diverticulitis is a clear example of inflammation with serious consequences.”
Dear readers – there is an obvious take home lesson from these studies – eat thoughtfully! Don’t forget that the helpful probiotic bacteria in your gut love fiber – found in vegetables, beans, fruits and whole, unprocessed grains.
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH back issues on this blog