By Jasminee Sahoye
“People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging,” said study author Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, of the Easton Centre for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Division of Geriatrics, University of California at Los Angeles.
A total of 1,575 people with an average age of 67 and free of dementia underwent MRI brain scans. They were also given tests that measured mental function, body mass and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their red blood cells.
Eating baked or broiled fish once a week is good for the brain, regardless of how much omega-3 fatty acid it contains, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Scientists estimate that more than 80 million people will have dementia by 2040, which could become a substantial burden to families and drive up health care costs, noted senior investigator James T. Becker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine.
Some studies have predicted that lifestyle changes such as a reduction in rates of physical inactivity, smoking and obesity could lead to fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of cognitive impairment in the elderly. The anti-oxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in high amounts in fish, seeds and nuts, and certain oils, also have been associated with improved health, particularly brain health.
“Our study shows that people who ate a diet that included baked or broiled, but not fried, fish have larger brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition,” Becker said.
“We did not find a relationship between omega-3 levels and these brain changes, which surprised us a little. It led us to conclude that we were tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health of which diet is just one part.”
Meanwhile, a more recent study has revealed that brain health is the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As people age they can experience a range of cognitive issues from decreased critical thinking to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are a number of nutrients that may help keep your brain in good health.
A study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory.
A study on mice found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation appeared to result in better object recognition memory, spatial and localizatory memory (memories that can be consciously recalled such as facts and knowledge), and adverse response retention.
Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flax seed oil, and chia seeds.
Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly.
A diet supplemented with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
Citicoline is a natural substance found in the body’s cells and helps in the development of brain tissue, which helps regulate memory and cognitive function, enhances communication between neurons, and protects neural structures from free radical damage. Clinical trials have shown citicoline supplements may help maintain normal cognitive function with aging and protect the brain from free radical damage.