A Mediterranean diet reduces the damage to the small blood vessels in the brain, according to a new study. This is the staple diet of people in the Mediterranean region including Italy and Greece. This diet emphasizes the use of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, legumes, monounsaturated fats, and moderate amounts of alcohol. The use of red meat, saturated fat, and refined grains are very low in this diet.
Mediterranean diet is known to reduce the risk of conditions like heart diseases, metabolic syndrome stroke, and dementia. The present study relates the white matter hypersensitivity volume (WMHV) in the brain to the diet. WMHV is a marker of small blood vessel damage in the brain detected by MRI. Higher levels of WMHV in the brain increase the risk of stroke and dementia.
In a recent study, the researchers analyzed the brain scans and diets of 966 participants with an average age of 72-years-old. The participants who closely followed the Mediterranean diet had low levels of WMHV in the brain when compared to those who did not follow the diet. An increase in the diet score was associated with a corresponding decrease in the WMHV score. This association remained the same even after considering other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Researchers suggest that it is the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturate fats that was the most significant factor in the diet. In a contradictory view, researcher Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and colleagues suggest that it is the overall dietary pattern rather than the individual component that matters.