Posted on Sun, 10 Jan 16
The health of your diet corresponds with your current brain size, according to an important study that may help explain the link between diet and mental illness such as depression and dementia.
Animal studies have suggested that unhealthy western diets high in red-meat, refined carbohydrates and low in fresh fruits and vegetables are linked to gradual destruction of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory. Declines in hippocampal volume also correlate with mental illness such as depression and dementia.
In human studies, correlations between hippocampal volume and certain nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins, have been discovered but the relationship between dietary patterns and hippocampal volume has not been explored.
For the first time researchers have looked at healthy vs. unhealthy diets and their possible effects on hippocampal atrophy.
Using dietary analysis and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans it was found that people who ate a more unhealthy “western” diet characterized by lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intake of unhealthy foods (such as roast meat, sausages, hamburgers, steak, chips, crisps and soft drinks) had significantly smaller hippocampal volume.
“To our knowledge, this is the first human study to demonstrate associations between diet and hippocampal volume concordant with data previously observed in animal studies,” commented the study authors. “These findings suggest the potential for dietary interventions to promote hippocampal health, decrease age related atrophy, and prevent negative health outcomes associated with hippocampal atrophy.’
Jacka FN, Cherbuin N, Anstey KJ, et al. Western diet is associated with a smaller hippocampus: a longitudinal investigation. BMC Med. 2015 Sep 8;13:215.