Nutrient profile of popular diet linked to slower brain aging

Nutrient profile of popular diet linked to slower brain aging
Brain imaging along with blood analysis has revealed which nutrients slow cognitive decline
Brain imaging along with blood analysis has revealed which nutrients slow cognitive decline
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Brain imaging along with blood analysis has revealed which nutrients slow cognitive decline
Brain imaging along with blood analysis has revealed which nutrients slow cognitive decline

By combining brain scans and nutritional intake data, a new study has found a nutrient profile that puts the brakes on brain aging. What's more, that profile matches an easy-to-follow popular eating plan that's been proven to convey multiple benefits.

In conducting the study, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign worked with a group of 100 cognitively healthy people in the 65 to 75 age range. They collected blood from the participants to measure nutrient biomarkers, conducted MRI scans, and put the volunteers through a range of cognitive assessments. The scientists also had the participants complete questionnaires that gathered demographic data, information about activity levels, and body measurements.

When examining the cognitive data, the team found two types of brain aging: slower-than-accepted and accelerated. When they combined the cognitive data with the nutritional measurements, they found a certain nutritional profile clearly linked to those with slower brain aging. Specifically, those with younger brains had good levels of fatty acids, carotenoids, choline, two forms of vitamin E, and antioxidants in their blood. That's a nutritional profile which closely matches that of the Mediterranean diet.

"The unique aspect of our study lies in its comprehensive approach, integrating data on nutrition, cognitive function, and brain imaging," said lead UNL researcher Aron Barbey. "We move beyond simply measuring cognitive performance with traditional neuropsychological tests. Instead, we simultaneously examine brain structure, function, and metabolism, demonstrating a direct link between these brain properties and cognitive abilities. Furthermore, we show that these brain properties are directly linked to diet and nutrition, as revealed by the patterns observed in nutrient biomarkers."

While the researchers say that their study was unique in this type of rigor, the findings are perhaps not too surprising, as the Mediterranean Diet – which places a high emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats – has consistently emerged as a healthy eating plan. It's been shown to fight cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, breast cancer and to even reduce the symptoms of depression in young men. Plus, last year, it came in third in a list of the top 10 diets ranked by the American Heart Association.

The researchers say they plan to continue to investigate the nutrient profile associated with slower brain aging, and to further tease apart the effects of specific nutrients on brain health.

"An important next step involves conducting randomized controlled trials," said Barbey. "In these trials, we will isolate specific nutrients with favorable associations with cognitive function and brain health, and administer them in the form of nutraceuticals. This will allow us to definitively assess whether increasing the levels of these specific nutrient profiles reliably leads to improvements in cognitive test performance and measures of brain structure, function, and metabolism."

The study conducted by Barbey and his team has been published in the journal Nature Aging.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln via EurekAlert

A good follow-up study would be to compare the Italian and Greek migrants in the USA and Australia with Italians and Greeks in Italy and Greece. My guess is that the prevalence of strokes and dementia would be higher in the migrant group.
Dr. Thundergod
I´m always intrigued by how the results of these scientific studies are verified. The other life- and medical variables are equally interesting, but are they included? Or is it specifically brains in general? If a dimwitted screen-junkie shifts his diet to a more Mediterran diet, would his brain age slower? How about an anxious low income single household mother of five in a bizzy suburb? Would it age her brain slower if she ate more like the greeks? Would it even make a difference? What if she lives outside of Athens and works as an assistant to a really bad stock broker? Are all the test subjects neurotypical?
T N Args
@anthony88 funny thing is, ofttimes migrant ethnic groups stick to tradition more than the homeland population, which moves on with the times. So your proposed study might show more modern trend influence in the homeland group.
Thank you Michael, a very nice write up. As you may see from the commenter analysis, this micro-nutritional analysis of the static function and static nutritional levels of Illinois Individuals gives and interesting hypothesis for the nutritional state of the 65-75 year old cohort. Given the proximity to Chicago as an international gateway, one might think this cohort is not a homogeneous group ethnicity, economic class, athletic and intellectual achievement. However we find in medicine that individual's metabolic pathways are unique in ways unpredictable by ethnicity and environmental exposures, so I find the "phenotype" projections in the source article rather under-powered, and artificial. From that basis, I agree that this line of investigation may yield excellent brain cognitive protection for those of us Indo-Europeans living in the USA as a first world country with both good and bad food choices available. Extrapolating cognitive protection for any reader from this study's findings is still a projection, but I'm willing to gamble on the Mediterranean diet for my heart health and my cognitive health. Thanks for the article that doesn't do much more than provide an uber-scientific approach to snap-shotting one's "BA".
Dirk Scott
Mediterranean folks dying now in their eighties have been around since the 1940s. I recently perused some photographs and film footage of Med countries from the ‘40’s to the mid 60’s. The “Mediterranean diet” these skinny people enjoyed seems to have included a lot less food, a lot of hard physical work and lots of time spent outside in the sunshine. Maybe these factors, and not the food, are the keys to longevity? But hey, it’s easier to sell food, so let’s study that.
faulty logic
Bravo! This is the kind of research we all need to be aware of and benefit from. The decay of ageing brains are the most dehumanising and cruel I have encountered. The irreversibility of such things and the constant decline in sufferers is screaming out for solutions of any sort that will help.