Associations of dietary markers with brain volume and connectivity: A systematic review of MRI studies

Daria E A Jensen, Virginia Leoni, Miriam C Klein-Flügge, Klaus P Ebmeier, Sana Suri
Ageing Research Reviews 2021 May 12, : 101360
The high prevalence of unhealthy dietary patterns and related brain disorders, such as dementia, emphasizes the importance of research that examines the effect of dietary factors on brain health. Identifying markers of brain health, such as volume and connectivity, that relate to diet is an important first step towards understanding the lifestyle determinants of healthy brain ageing. We conducted a systematic review of 52 studies (total n = 21,221 healthy participants aged 26-80 years, 55% female) that assessed with a range of MRI measurements, which brain areas, connections, and cerebrovascular factors were associated with dietary markers. We found associations between a wide range of regional brain measures and dietary health. Collectively, lower diet quality was related to reduced brain volume and connectivity, especially in white and grey matter of the frontal, temporal and parietal lobe, cingulate, entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus. Associations were also observed in connecting fibre pathways and in particular the default-mode, sensorimotor and attention networks. However, there were also some inconsistencies in research methods and findings. We recommend that future research use more comprehensive and consistent dietary measures, more representative samples, and examine the role of key subcortical regions previously highlighted in relevant animal work.

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