A Science-Proven Anti-Alzheimer's Diet?
Last updated:December 29, 2011
People who eat a certain type of diet -- one rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E -- have bigger brains and better cognitive function than those whose diets are unhealthier, according to research in the journal Neurology.
This may not sound like anything new, but it is, reports Time. For years, studies have hinted at the right foods to eat to prevent Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline. But often these recommendations haven't held up under further study or been replicated by other research. That's because they tend to be based on observational studies and people self-reporting what they ate. The new research, conducted at Oregon Health and Science University, is different.
It's the first study of its kind to measure a variety of nutrient levels in the blood in older adults -- the average age was 87 -- and compare them to cognitive test results and MRI scans that measure the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease. It's also the first study to look at combinations of nutrients, rather than just one isolated vitamin at a time.
Those with the healthy diets had better mental function scores (including memory, attention tasks, visual skills, spatial skills, and language skills) than those who ate diets heavy in trans fats and low in nutrients. The latter diets are heavy in processed foods, packaged foods, fried foods, baked goods, frozen foods, and fast food.
Diet isn't the only risk factor for Alzheimer's. But researchers say that the diet plus the known factors of age, gender, and genetic mutations explain 76 percent of the variance between those with more cognitive decline. "That tells us that imaging and structural changes in the brain may be very sensitive to dietary intake," nutritional epidemiologist Gene Bowman told Time . "So imaging may actually have a greater power to detect relationships between diet and cognitive decline than tests of mental skills. That's quite remarkable."