The diet that sheds pounds and keeps your brain from shrinking

Eating well prevents obesity. We all know that, right?

And obesity is really a form of premature aging.

Being overweight ages us from the inside out, affecting our telomeres, harming our energy-producing mitochondria, and weakening our immune system.

And as if that weren’t enough, it makes our brain get old a lot faster than it normally would, making us more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

But according to ongoing research, there’s a simple way to change your diet that will stop the obesity train in its tracks and keep your brain from aging prematurely.

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The brain power of the Green Mediterranean diet

The DIRECT PLUS study (Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial Polyphenols Unprocessed Study) conducted by Israeli scientists in 2017-18 was the first to introduce the concept of the green Mediterranean, high polyphenols diet and its potential for weight loss in older adults.

In this trial, 284 people were divided into three groups. The first ate a healthy diet. The second adhered to a traditional Mediterranean diet, including 28g of polyphenol-rich walnuts.

The third group ate a “green Mediterranean diet.” On top of walnuts, they added three to four cups of green tea daily, as well as a green shake made with Mankai duckweed as a substitute for dinner. They ate almost no red meat.

At the end of the 18-month trial, brain MRIs on all participants showed a significant slowing in brain atrophy (shrinking) in those who ate a Mediterranean diet.

The change was even more noticeable in participants over age 50 who went “green.”

Follow-up study shows even better benefits

Scientists at Ben Gurion University recently conducted a sub-study of the DIRECT PLUS trial to examine the effects of weight loss on brain age and other factors affecting brain health.

The researchers chose 102 individuals who met the criteria for obesity.

Each received a brain scan both before and after the study to examine how weight loss through diet affected their “brain age.”

They found that a one percent reduction in body weight led to brain age being almost nine months younger than expected for a person of that chronological age.

And, as a bonus, these “younger” brains were also associated with a decrease in liver fat and liver enzymes that have been shown to negatively affect the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

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How to go green for a big brain (and slimmer waist and liver)

Now, you may remember we wrote last year about how the green Mediterranean diet doubles fat loss.

That means the green Mediterranean diet is the one diet we could all get on board with, from weight loss to brain health — not to mention the liver benefits.

If you’re not already following a Mediterranean diet, take a look at this guide to getting started.

Then, start to tweak things gradually. Eliminate one portion of meat and substitute fish or a plant-based protein like nuts, seeds or legumes. As you go along your goal should be a diet that includes very little if no meat at all.

Fruits and veggies should make up the bulk of your diet. Don’t forget, whenever possible, raw is better for you.

Pile on whole grains (rich in heart-protective betaines) like brown rice, barley and buckwheat.

Dairy is allowed but in moderation. And don’t forget those healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, walnuts and almonds.

Drink plenty of green tea (though black tea has some impressive benefits of its own!).

Last, but not least, if you must eat processed foods, keep them to a minimum—especially foods with added sugars and refined grains.

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Could a better diet make your brain younger? — Eureka Alert

The effect of weight loss following 18 months of lifestyle intervention on brain age assessed with resting-state functional connectivity — Epidemiology and Global Health

The effect of a high-polyphenol Mediterranean diet (Green-MED) combined with physical activity on age-related brain atrophy: the Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial Polyphenols Unprocessed Study (DIRECT PLUS) — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The effect of high-polyphenol Mediterranean diet on visceral adiposity: the DIRECT PLUS randomized controlled trial — BMC Medicine

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.