Diet could actually impact the physical makeup of your brain, researchers discovered, which lends some credence to the old saying, "you are what you eat."

A new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that people following the Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period, Medical Xpress reported. Declining mind mass is a natural part of aging.

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Researchers examined information on the eating habits of 967 participants, who were all from Scotland around age 70, and who did not have dementia. About three years later, 562 participants had an MRI brain scan to measure overall brain volume, gray matter volume, and thickness of the cortex. Then, another three years later, 401 participants returned for a second MRI.

The research team then compared these MRI results to how closely participants followed the Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, rice, fish, dairy, poultry, and wine.

Results showed that, over three years, those who followed the diet closely were less likely to have a high loss of total brain volume. Meanwhile, there was no relationship between grey matter volume or cortical thickness and the Mediterranean diet.

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"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," said study author Michelle Luciano, PhD, according to Medical Xpress.

"In our study, eating habits were measured before brain volume was, which suggests that the diet may be able to provide long-term protection to the brain," Luciano explained. "Still, larger studies are needed to confirm these results."

Source: Luciano M, Corley J, Cox SR, Vald és Hern ández MC, Dickie DA, Bastin ME, et al. Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort. Neurology. 2017.

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