Apr 17, 2012

Our Brains Are What We Eat

Can diet affect your risk of Alzheimer's, or reduce those risks?

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Gene Bowman
Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E are associated with better mental functioning and less brain shrinkage in older people.

This study caught my attention because the average of a participant was 87 years old.

The research behind the study was published in the journal Neurology and showed that people with healthier diets — rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins — had bigger brains and better cognitive function than those whose diets were unhealthier on the whole.

This study does differ from previous studies around these issues. See the explanation below.

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That was the finding from a study led by OHSU’s Gene Bowman. And the results from the interesting and innovative study, published Dec. 28 in Neurology, have received a lot of national attention.

The study found that elderly people with diets high in vitamins B, C, D, and E and in omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have the brain shrinkage and other abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people whose diets aren't high in those nutrients.

People taking in the good nutrients also had higher scores on mental thinking tests than those with diets low in the good nutrients.

And, the study found, our bad eating catches up to us in other ways as well. It found that people with diets high in trans fats - often found in fast, frozen and processed foods and in baked goods - were more likely to have brain shrinkage and lower scores on thinking and memory tests.

Previous studies have relied on the study participants to recall foods eaten over the last year. But the OHSU study measured the nutrients in study participants' blood as an objective reflection of dietary intake. The study also identified nutrient combinations that may have synergistic effects on brain health.

The average age of study participants was 87.

Layton Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease Center

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Portland VA Medical Center.

***I'll add that Dotty does get a vitamin B12 shot each month, we get vitamin C from orange juice, broccoli and other dark green vegetables, vitamin D from bright sunlight, and we take Omega-3 twice a day, and we eat salmon and tuna twice a week. Basically we try to get these nutrients by eating as opposed to taking supplements.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room