A healthy diet isn't just good for your waistline, but also your brain, say scientists in a study in Neurology—the latest to tout the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. About 400 healthy Scottish volunteers kept a food diary at age 70, then underwent MRI scans of their brains at 73 and 76, per the Los Angeles Times. All brains shrink with age, but researchers found those who ate a Mediterranean diet lost less brain mass than others. In fact, their brains appeared to shrink at half the rate of those who ate less healthy food, says study author Michelle Luciano of the University of Edinburgh. What's so great about having a bigger brain? "People who have bigger brains in general can tolerate more brain pathology, more brain disease, than those who have smaller brains," a doctor not involved in the study tells NBC News.
"So the reduced loss in the people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet in general would be expected to protect them from developing dementia," he continues. The study, however, didn't look at the effects of a larger brain on memory or thinking. A 2015 study also found people who followed a Mediterranean diet had larger brains, but it attributed that to a high intake of fish over meat and poultry. In what should be good news for steak lovers, this latest study found participants' habits of eating meat or fish didn't affect brain size. "It's possible that other components of the Mediterranean diet are responsible for this relationship, or that it's due to all of the components in combination," Luciano tells the BBC. (This diet may cut your Alzheimer's risk.)