Objective: To assess the association between Mediterranean-type diet (MeDi) and change in brain MRI volumetric measures and mean cortical thickness across a 3-year period in older age (73–76 years).
Methods: We focused on 2 longitudinal brain volumes (total and gray matter; n = 401 and 398, respectively) plus a longitudinal measurement of cortical thickness (n = 323), for which the previous cross-sectional evidence of an association with the MeDi was strongest. Adherence to the MeDi was calculated from data gathered from a food frequency questionnaire at age 70, 3 years prior to the baseline imaging data collection.
Results: In regression models adjusting for relevant demographic and physical health indicators, we found that lower adherence to the MeDi was associated with greater 3-year reduction in total brain volume (explaining 0.5% of variance, p < 0.05). This effect was half the size of the largest covariate effect (i.e., age). Cross-sectional associations between MeDi and baseline MRI measures in 562 participants were not significant. Targeted analyses of meat and fish consumption did not replicate previous associations with total brain volume or total gray matter volume.
Conclusions: Lower adherence to the MeDi in an older Scottish cohort is predictive of total brain atrophy over a 3-year interval. Fish and meat consumption does not drive this change, suggesting that other components of the MeDi or, possibly, all of its components in combination are responsible for the association.
The data were collected by a Research into Ageing programme grant; research continues as part of the Age UK–funded Disconnected Mind project. The work was undertaken by The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/K026992/1), with funding from the BBSRC and Medical Research Council. Imaging and image analysis was performed at the Brain Research Imaging Centre (sbirc.ed.ac.uk/), Edinburgh, supported by the Scottish Funding Council SINAPSE Collaboration. Derivation of mean cortical thickness measures was funded by the Scottish Funding Council’s Postdoctoral and Early Career Researchers Exchange Fund awarded by SINAPSE to David Alexander Dickie. L.C.A.C. acknowledges funding from the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) division.