ScienceDaily (Dec. 29, 2011) —
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 the December 28, 2011, online
issue of Neurology®,
the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
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.
Overall, the participants had good nutritional status, but seven
percent were deficient in vitamin B12 and 25 percent were deficient in
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 U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs,
Portland VA Medical Center.
The above story is reprinted from
materials provided by American
Academy of Neurology.