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An observational study of older adults found that the Mediterranean diet may help preserve the connections between neurons in the brain, by preserving the microstructure in the white matter of the brain. This appeared to have a strong cognitive benefit - equal up to 10 years of delayed cognitive aging in those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet most closely. So if you haven't started already, try eating what the Mediterranean diet stresses: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, olive oil, some fish, and some wine. And cut back on highly processed foods, meat, and high fat foods. It's not one or two foods, but overall diet that is important. From Medscape:

Mediterranean Diet May Preserve Brain Structural Connectivity

The Mediterranean diet may help preserve structural connectivity in the brain in older adults, results of a French study hint. Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with preserved microstructure in extensive areas of the white matter up to a decade later, the study team found. And this appeared to be related to strong cognitive benefit, equal to up to 10 years of delayed cognitive aging for those with the greatest adherence, they say....The study was published online July 16 in Alzheimer's & Dementia. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease, but the underlying mechanisms have been unclear.

The new findings are based on 146 nondemented older adults in the Bordeaux Three-City study, a prospective cohort initiated in 1999-2000 to study vascular risk factors for dementia. Participants provided information on their diet in 2001-2002 (at a mean age of 73 years), underwent brain MRI an average of 9 years later (including diffusion tensor imaging)...On the basis of dietary assessment, 26% of participants had a low Mediterranean diet (MedDi) score of 0 to 3, indicating poor adherence to the diet; 47% had medium scores (4 or 5); and 27% had higher scores (6 to 8) representing the best adherence to the diet.

In adjusted analysis, there was no significant association between the MedDi score and grey matter or white matter volume. However, there was a strong association between the MedDi and diffusion tensor imaging patterns, suggesting that higher MeDi adherence was associated with a "general pattern of preserved WM [white matter] microstructure in multiple bundles," the researchers say. And preserved white matter microstructure with higher adherence to the MedDi "appeared to delay cognitive aging by up to 10 years."

"Our results suggest that the Mediterranean diet helps preserve the connections between neurons, which appear to be damaged with aging, vascular brain diseases and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia," Dr Samieri told Medscape Medical News. "In addition, the regions which appeared preserved with greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet were extended and were not specific to a particular disease, suggesting that the Mediterranean diet may have the potential to prevent not only stroke (as previously demonstrated with the PREDIMED [Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea] trial) but also multiple age-related brain pathologies," she added.

The added finding that none of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet was strongly associated with imaging results "supports our hypothesis that overall diet quality may be more important to preserve brain structure than any single food," they write.

Makes sense. From Science Daily:

High school football players show brain changes after one season, even in absence of concussions

Some high school football players exhibit measurable brain changes after a single season of play even in the absence of concussion, according to a new study.

Dr. Whitlow and colleagues set out to determine if head impacts acquired over a season of high school football produce white matter changes in the brain in the absence of clinically diagnosed concussion.The researchers studied 24 high school football players between the ages of 16 and 18. For all games and practices, players were monitored with Head Impact Telemetry System (HITs) helmet-mounted accelerometers, which are used in youth and collegiate football to assess the frequency and severity of helmet impacts.

Risk-weighted cumulative exposure was computed from the HITs data, representing the risk of concussion over the course of the season. This data, along with total impacts, were used to categorize the players into one of two groups: heavy hitters or light hitters. There were nine heavy hitters and 15 light hitters. None of the players experienced concussion during the season.

All players underwent pre- and post-season evaluation with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain. DTI is an advanced MRI technique, which identifies microstructural changes in the brain's white matter.

The brain's white matter is composed of millions of nerve fibers called axons that act like communication cables connecting various regions of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging produces a measurement, called fractional anisotropy (FA), of the movement of water molecules along axons. In healthy white matter, the direction of water movement is fairly uniform and measures high in fractional anisotropy. When water movement is more random, fractional anisotropy values decrease, suggesting microstructural abnormalities.

The results showed that both groups demonstrated global increases of FA over time, likely reflecting effects of brain development. However, the heavy-hitter group showed statistically significant areas of decreased FA post-season in specific areas of the brain, including the splenium of the corpus callosum and deep white matter tracts.

"Our study found that players experiencing greater levels of head impacts have more FA loss compared to players with lower impact exposure," Dr. Whitlow said. "Similar brain MRI changes have been previously associated with mild traumatic brain injury. However, it is unclear whether or not these effects will be associated with any negative long-term consequences."