Here’s more good news about the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and the vitamins found in fresh fruits and vegetables: seniors with high levels of these nutrients did better on tests of mental acuity and had less of the brain shrinkage that signals Alzheimer’s disease. (If you want the opposite effect, the researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University said that their study suggests that the best route is to eat a lot of junk foods.) To arrive at their conclusions, the investigators measured levels of these nutrients in the blood of 104 seniors (average age, 87) participating in the study and found that vitamins B, C, D, E and omega-3s conferred the most benefits on the brain. In addition to the blood tests, 42 participants had MRIs to measure brain volume. Many previous studies of nutritional effects on the brain have been based primarily on food questionnaires, which yield less precise data. The researchers said that their findings need to be confirmed by further research.
My take? We know from clinical research that the Mediterranean diet appears to help protect against the mild cognitive impairment that can develop with age, and that this style of eating may also delay the transition from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet provides its benefits by moderating inflammation throughout the body, and inflammation in the brain precedes the changes in the central nervous system that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. My anti-inflammatory diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet in its emphasis on high quality fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, yogurt, fresh fish and on vegetable rather than animal protein, and I believe following an anti-inflammatory diet may be the most effective strategy to preserve brain health as we age.
Your Brain and Weight Loss
New research suggests that many weight problems are all in the head, but not in the way you might suppose. Two studies published in the December 27, 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicate that the poor dietary choices that have led to much of the obesity in the U.S. might damage brain cells around the hypothalamus, an area that helps regulate hunger and thirst, possibly causing you to feel hungry even though you’ve eaten more than enough. The damage appears to stem from inflammation promoted by high fat diets. Although we’ve known for some time that high fat diets can lead to inflammatory changes in the body, these changes were believed to take weeks or months to occur. However, the researchers who conducted the two studies are now reporting that changes in the brain due to inflammation can develop within as little time as 24 hours based on their studies with mice and rats. The same effects were seen on MRIs of the brains of obese humans. The investigators found that while initial brain changes due to high fat diets were only temporary, they become permanent with continued high fat eating.
Courtesy of Dr. Weil.