How to eat well for a sharper mind

Credit: Unsplash+

Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and The Robert Butler Columbia Aging Center have uncovered new evidence that eating a healthy diet might not just be good for your body, but also for your brain.

Their latest study, shining a light on the connection between what we eat, how our bodies age, and our risk of developing dementia, was recently shared in the Annals of Neurology.

For years, scientists have noticed that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins seem to age better and have a lower chance of losing their memory and thinking skills as they grow older.

However, the question of “why?” remained largely unanswered. That’s where this new study comes into play, offering a glimpse into the biological workings behind the diet-dementia link.

The research team, led by Daniel Belsky and Yian Gu, dove into data from the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring Cohort, which has been keeping an eye on a group of individuals since 1971 to learn about the risk factors for heart disease.

This particular study focused on those over 60 who didn’t have dementia and had detailed records on their diet, genetic makeup, and health check-ups over time.

They were especially interested in using a special tool called the DunedinPACE, a kind of biological clock, to see how quickly or slowly participants’ bodies were aging.

This tool, developed by Belsky and his colleagues, measures the wear and tear on our bodies much like a speedometer shows the speed of a car.

Out of 1,644 participants they looked at, 140 eventually developed dementia. Their analysis found that those who stuck closely to a diet rich in brain-healthy foods — similar to what’s recommended in the Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet — tended to age more slowly according to the DunedinPACE.

More importantly, this slower pace of aging was linked to a reduced risk of developing dementia and even to a lower chance of dying during the study period.

The findings suggest that about a quarter of the reason why a healthy diet might protect against dementia could be because it helps slow down the body’s overall aging process.

However, there’s still a part of the puzzle missing, as the diet-dementia connection wasn’t fully explained by the study’s findings.

This groundbreaking work doesn’t just deepen our understanding of how a nutritious diet benefits the brain; it also opens up new avenues for preventing dementia.

By keeping an eye on how fast we’re aging, we might be able to identify whether someone is at higher risk for dementia earlier and possibly intervene with dietary changes.

While this research is a significant step forward, the team is calling for more studies to explore how specific nutrients affect the brain directly and to see if these findings hold true in different groups of people.

The hope is that, with further investigation, we might one day use our understanding of biological aging and diet to keep our minds sharp as we age.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.

The research findings can be found in Annals of Neurology.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.