Certain dietary patterns are associated with long-term brain health

Published: March, 2012

Scientists have long known that certain nutrients are essential for brain development and function. There's also evidence that good nutrition can help stave off cognitive decline in older people. But studies of single nutrients have largely been disappointing, and research on the relationship between overall diet and brain function generally relies on food frequency questionnaires, which can be misleading because of faulty memories and the inability to take account of nutrient absorption. Now researchers have conducted the first study using nutrient biomarkers and brain imaging to analyze the effect of diet on cognitive function and brain volume. Their main finding is that higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E are associated with better memory and thinking in older people. The study was published in Neurology (Jan. 24, 2012).

The study. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University measured the blood levels of 30 nutrients in 104 people (64 of them women), average age 87, who were participating in the Oregon Brain Aging Study. For the Neurology study, the scientists administered tests of mental function (including memory, learning, and spatial relations), and, for a subgroup of 42 participants, used MRI imaging to measure cerebral brain volume.

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