The area of the brain that's responsible for processing memories, called the hippocampus, was also larger in people who ate healthier diets.
Overall, participants had a median dietary guideline adherence score of 7 (on a theoretical range of 0 to 14) and a mean total brain volume of 932.01 mL.
While the study did not delve into whether diet could change brain volumes or affect brain function, Vernooij and Pauline Croll, a co-author on the paper and a PhD student in epidemiology and radiology at Erasmus, believe the findings could lead to new research on how diet could affect brain disorders.
WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Better diet quality, including high intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, nuts, and fish, is associated with larger brain volume, according to a study published online May 16 in Neurology. The combined effect of eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, dairy and fish seemed to contribute to larger brain volume.
"People with greater brain volume have been shown in other studies to have better cognitive abilities, so initiatives that help improve diet quality may be a good strategy to maintain thinking skills in older adults", said Vernooij in a statement. Even taking into account brain-shrinking activities such as smoking and failing to exercise, those who ate well had an average of two millilitres more brain volume than those who did not.
It's worth mention that diet was not linked to white matter lesions or small brain bleeds.
The team hopes to continue their work and look at whether changes in diet can possibly affect brain volumes and potentially increase volumes to slow or reverse cognitive decline. "There is no evidence for the opposite, which provides a strong argument in favor of recommending a Mediterranean-style diet for brain aging and dementia prevention".
"These results suggest that the effect of nutrition on neurodegeneration may act via brain structure", the authors write.
Tis study was funded by Erasmus Medical Center and Erasmus University, Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly (RIDE), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, the European Commission (DG XII), and the Municipality of Rotterdam.
One author disclosed financial ties to Nestle and Metagenics.