Eat like a Spaniard to stop the brain from shrinking
10 Feb 2016
Tuck into a diet rich in veggies, fruit and olive oil if you want to stop your brain from shrinking as you get older. Strange as it may seem, a study of people with an average age of 80 shows that those who follow the traditional Mediterranean diet have bigger brains.
So, the theory is that we should follow suit if we want a bigger brain too. Eating more fish and less meat is also connected to less brain shrinkage, the US study found. Scientist Dr Yian Gu, of Columbia University in New York who led the project, said the results are exciting as people can stop losing brain cells associated with ageing by eating healthily.
The Mediterranean diet includes eating a lot of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and fish as well as fats such as olive oil. The use of fats such as butter or lard, dairy products and meat is reduced compared to a typical UK diet. It should be pointed out that the study does not prove a Mediterranean diet will stop you losing brain cells as you get older but it does show an association. But, all in all, the difference in the size of the brain between the people who ate a Mediterranean diet and those who didn’t was similar to the effect of five years of aging, the researchers pointed out.
But when in Spain, why not follow some of their healthy traditions and savour the flavour of the cuisine? After all, any move to keep the brain healthy needs to be explored especially as brain shrinkage is seen by patients with dementia.
There are other ways to keep the brain active such as stopping smoking, keeping your blood pressure in check, getting more physical exercise and keeping the mind in good order by learning a new language, doing crosswords or other activities which tax the grey matter. Many local councils on the Costa Blanca offer free Spanish lessons to foreigners. You can ask in the town hall for more information. As if the diet wasn’t a good enough reason to move to Spain, official figures also show that people enjoy a longer life in the Alicante region.
Life expectancy in Spain is 81.6 years, which puts it 15th in the world compared to the UK which is ranked 30 with a life expectancy of 80.54.