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Mediterranean diet may prevent speech difficulties associated with brain shrinkage

Tuesday 10th January 2017
Could later-life speech difficulties be avoided by following a Mediterranean diet? Image: Tijana87 via iStock
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Speech difficulties associated with natural brain shrinkage could be avoided by following a Mediterranean diet, according to a new study.

Research from scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that people who ate a typically Mediterranean diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, lean meat and fish tended to experience less severe brain shrinkage than those eating a more unhealthy diet.

This discovery was made following an analysis of the diets of 967 individuals born in 1936, who, as part of the Lothian Birth Cohort, have taken part in a variety of mental ability tests and lifestyle assessments throughout their lives.

As these individuals reached their 70s, doctors asked for volunteers from the group to undergo MRI scans at the age of 73 and again at 76 so that they could assess their brain shrinkage.

It was found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet tended to have suffered less brain shrinkage over this three-year period when their MRI scans were compared to those of their counterparts with unhealthier diets.

As a result, researchers believe following a healthy lifestyle to slow down brain shrinkage could help to keep the mind active for longer, subsequently preventing the development of speech and communication problems or other cognitive issues. These all naturally occur as a person's brain shrinks with age, but could be delayed with a Mediterranean diet.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, explained: "While a balanced diet is one way we can help to maintain a healthy brain, the best current evidence points to a number of other lifestyle factors that can also play a role. These include not smoking, staying mentally and physically active, only drinking in moderation and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check."

Therefore, speech therapists may wish to advise their patients to make these changes to their lifestyles in order to slow down the shrinking of their brains and subsequently prevent speech problems from worsening.

Written by Martin Lambert

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