Healthy Eating May Improve Brain Function
January 3, 2012 by Sam Rolley
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to maintain a more healthful diet, it could have a long-term, positive impact on not only your physical health but your mental health, too.
New research suggests that elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids in their blood perform better on mental-acuity tests and experience less of the brain shrinkage commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with “junk food” diets displayed opposite results.
A first-of-its-kind study published in Neurology focused on blood nutrient levels, unlike previous studies that based findings on questionnaires about subjects’ diets and relied on flawed memories of what they had eaten.
Researchers found that people who had the highest levels of vitamins B, C, D, E and the healthy oils commonly found in fish in their blood were mentally sharper than those with lower levels of the vitamins and oils.
“The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers,” said Maret Traber, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and co-author on the study. “I’m a firm believer these nutrients have strong potential to protect your brain and make it work better.”
Findings in the study also suggest:
The most favorable cognitive outcomes and brain size measurements were associated with two dietary patterns: high levels of marine fatty acids and high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E.
Consistently worse cognitive performance was associated with a higher intake of the type of trans-fats found in baked and fried foods, margarine, fast food and other less-healthy dietary choices.
Cognitive changes related to different diets may be due both to impacts on brain size and cardiovascular function.