Aging Brains May Stay Sharp, Avoid Shrinkage, Alzheimer's with Proper Diet
Good choices Bs, C, D, E & omega 3; also diets high in trans fats more likely to produce brain shrinkage, lower scores on
"...exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them
sharp by adjusting their diet,” Gene Bowman
Jan. 4, 2012 – A new study suggests that people can potentially stop their brains from shrinking, avoid Alzheimer’s
disease and stay mentally sharp just by adjusting their diet.
People with diets high in certain vitamins or in omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have these brain problems than
people whose diets are not high in these nutrients, according to a new study published in the December 28, 2011, online issue of
medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Those with diets high in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins C, D, E and the B vitamins also had higher scores on mental
thinking tests than people with diets low in those nutrients.
These omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in fish. The B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are
primarily found in fruits and vegetables.
In another finding, the study showed that people with diets high in trans fats were more likely to have brain shrinkage
and lower scores on the thinking and memory tests than people with diets low in trans fats. Trans fats are primarily found in packaged, fast,
fried and frozen food, baked goods and margarine spreads.
The study involved 104 people with an average age of 87 and very few risk factors for memory and thinking problems. Blood
tests were used to determine the levels of various nutrients present in the blood of each participant.
All of the participants also took tests of their memory and thinking skills. A total of 42 of the participants had MRI
scans to measure their brain volume.
Overall, the participants had good nutritional status, but seven percent were deficient in vitamin B12 and 25 percent
were deficient in vitamin D.
The nutrient biomarkers in the blood accounted for a significant amount of the variation in both brain volume and
thinking and memory scores, according to study author Gene Bowman, ND, MPH, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a member of
the American Academy of Neurology.
For the thinking and memory scores, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 17 percent of the variation in the scores.
Other factors such as age, number of years of education and high blood pressure accounted for 46 percent of the
variation. For brain volume, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 37 percent of the variation.
“These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their
brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” Bowman said.
The study was the first to use nutrient biomarkers in the blood to analyze the effect of diet on memory and thinking
skills and brain volume.
Previous studies have looked at only one or a few nutrients at a time or have used questionnaires to assess people’s
diet. But questionnaires rely on people’s memory of their diet, and they also do not account for how much of the nutrients are absorbed by the
body, which can be an issue in the elderly.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging and National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Portland VA Medical Center.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 24,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to
promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating
and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury,
Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit
http://www.aan.com or find us on
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