(photo credit: Courtesy)
ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with diets high in several vitamins or in
omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have the brain shrinkage associated with
Alzheimer’s disease than people whose diets are not high in those nutrients,
according to a new study published in a recent online issue of
Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of
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.
participants had good nutritional status, but seven percent were deficient in
vitamin B12 and 25 percent were deficient in vitamin D.
Study author Gene
Bowman, ND, MPH, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a
member of the American Academy of Neurology, said that the nutrient biomarkers
in the blood accounted for a significant amount of the variation in both brain
volume and thinking and memory scores. 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 US Department of Veteran Affairs, Portland VA
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.This article was first published at: www.newswise.com