To investigate the relation of diet quality with structural brain tissue volumes and focal vascular lesions in a dementia-free population.
From the population-based Rotterdam Study, 4,447 participants underwent dietary assessment and brain MRI scanning between 2005 and 2015. We excluded participants with an implausible energy intake, prevalent dementia, or cortical infarcts, leaving 4,213 participants for the current analysis. A diet quality score (0–14) was calculated reflecting adherence to Dutch dietary guidelines. Brain MRI was performed to obtain information on brain tissue volumes, white matter lesion volume, lacunes, and cerebral microbleeds. The associations of diet quality score and separate food groups with brain structures were assessed using multivariable linear and logistic regression.
We found that better diet quality related to larger brain volume, gray matter volume, white matter volume, and hippocampal volume. Diet quality was not associated with white matter lesion volume, lacunes, or microbleeds. High intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and fish and low intake of sugar-containing beverages were associated with larger brain volumes.
A better diet quality is associated with larger brain tissue volumes. These results suggest that the effect of nutrition on neurodegeneration may act via brain structure. More research, in particular longitudinal research, is needed to unravel direct vs indirect effects between diet quality and brain health.