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food for the brain

Championing optimum nutrition for the mind


Nutrients, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain ageing. Bowman et al, Neurology Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print], 2011.

Paper

 

Nutrients, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain ageing. Bowman et al, Neurology Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print], 2011.

Details

In this ground-breaking study, 104 healthy elderly people (with an average age of 87) had blood levels of 30 different nutrients measured. These were compared with results of a battery of cognitive tests assessing functions such as memory, attention and decision-making, and MRI scan results. MRIs were used to assess brain volume which declines with normal ageing, and a greater decline is seen with dementia. The aim of the study was to investigate whether there is a relationship between nutrient levels, cognitive function and brain volume.

For the analysis, the nutrients were grouped into 'nutrient biomarker patterns' or NBPs. Two of the NBPs were associated with better cognitive function and better MRI results – one of which was the NBP that was high in the B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folate and B12) and vitamins C, D and E; the second of which was high in omega-3 fats. A third NBP was associated with worse cognitive function and worse MRI results (less brain volume) – this NBP was characterised by high levels of trans fats. Trans fats are the damaged fats found in fried and processed foods, and in many baked goods with a long shelf life.

This study suggests that having better levels of vitamins (think fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and omega-3 fats (primarily from fish oil, and to a lesser extent nuts and seeds) and lower levels of trans fats (by avoiding fried and processed foods), you could expect to have better cognitive function and brain volume in old age, both of which are associated with a much reduced risk of dementia.

Click here for abstract.

Bowman GL, Silbert LC, Howieson D, Dodge HH, Traber MG, Frei B, Kaye JA, Shannon J, Quinn JF (2011) Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print]