Fascinating findings regarding food for brain health. How you eat might just have an impact on the health of your brain.
So, what’s best for the brain? A new study appearing in the journal Neurology finds that a diet that regularly contains lots of specific vitamins (B, C, D, E) as well as omega-3 fats, while being low in trans fats, is best for the brain. Older subjects who ate like this were found to have less shrinkage in the brain (linked with Alzheimer’s), and got higher scores on tests of thinking ability than those who had less nutrient rich diets.
Earlier research has suggested that a heart healthy diet is good for the brain too, but this latest study did things a little differently. They used blood samples (rather than diet questionnaires) to determine the diet and nutrient levels of those who participated.
According to study author Gene L. Bowman, ND, MPH, an assistant professor of neurology, the combination of B vitamins, antioxidants C and E and vitamin D was the best in terms of nutrients in the blood and healthy brain aging in the study population.
Natural sources of these nutrients include:
- B vitamins: milk and dairy, whole grain cereals, enriched bread, peanut butter
- Vitamin C: fruits and veggies
- Vitamin E: nuts and oils
- Vitamin D: fatty fish like salmon, fortified milk
Diets with lots of omega-3 fatty acids were also found to be good for the brain.
And when it comes to the worst diet… the findings weren’t all that surprising. A diet high in trans fats, most often found in fast foods and packaged baked foods and snacks, is the most troublesome in terms of keeping the brain healthy.
The average age of the study subjects was 87, and they didn’t have risk factors that are known to up the chances of thinking and memory problems – things like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Beyond the blood testing, the subjects were given memory and thinking skills testing. 42 of them had MRI scans to measure their brain volume. A smaller brain volume has been tied to declines in the ability to think that are known to be a part of Alzheimer’s disease.
The team examined 30 nutrient biomarkers in the samples, and those that were most often linked to a healthy brain were vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and trans fats.
While the declines in mental abilities were attributable more to a subjects’ age and other risk factors, diet also played a part, perhaps about 17%, compared to 48% for subject age. When it came to brain size diet was almost as important as other things – explaining about 37% of the difference, while the other risk factors covered about 40% of the variations.
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Brain Health Linked To Diet Patterns… Continued…
It’s important to understand that the research shows an association between the two things, what you eat and how healthy your brain might be. This is not cause and effect. Also, the small study examined only a single point in time, and no one can say if the dietary patterns predict what will happen over a lifetime.
As research moves forward, it might someday be possible to slow mental decline through what a patient eats. This comes from Christy Tangney, PhD an associate professor of clinical nutrition and Rush University Medical Center who wrote an editorial that accompanied the research. There may one day even be a blood measurement that gives a clue as to the typical diet, not just a single point in time.
Until then, the best advice of experts is to follow a heart healthy diet that is also full of food for brain health and get plenty of exercise to keep your body, and brain, healthy.