Elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids in their blood have better performance on mental acuity tests and less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.
On the other hand “junk food” diets produces just the opposite result.
The research conducted by scientists from the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore., and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found positive effects of high levels of vitamins B, C, D, E and the healthy oils most commonly found in fish.
“This approach clearly shows the biological and neurological activity that’s associated with actual nutrient levels, both good and bad,” said Maret Traber, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and co-author on the study.
“The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers.
“I’m a firm believer these nutrients have strong potential to protect your brain and make it work better,” Traber said.
The study was done with 104 people, at an average age of 87, with no special risk factors for memory or mental acuity. It tested 30 different nutrient biomarkers in their blood, and 42 participants also had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.
The most favourable cognitive outcomes and brain size measurements were associated with two dietary patterns – high levels of marine fatty acids, and high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E.
Consistently worse cognitive performance was associated with a higher intake of the type of trans-fats found in baked and fried foods, margarine, fast food and other less-healthy dietary choices.
The study needs to be confirmed with further research and other variables tested, the scientists said.