November 14, 2007
Fish, Fruits, Vegetables Slow Brain Aging

Of course fish, fruits, and vegetables slow brain aging. You already know that. But the purpose of my posting the studies on diet and aging is to remind you that, yes, the bad foods really are bad for you and the good foods really are good for you. There's a big difference between an ideal diet and a typical diet. An ideal diet delivers benefits in many forms. When you eat wisely you aren't just reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease. Fish, fruit, and vegetables really are good for your brain.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A diet rich in fish, omega-3 oils, fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas consuming omega-6 rich oils could increase chances of developing memory problems, according to a study published in the November 13, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Do you need to know the statistical details in order to improve your diet? If not, go on to the next story. If you really need to know then keep reading. Or if you are already eating a wise scientifically informed diet then read on so you that can feel really good about yourself and your health choices.

I so do not want to get Alzheimer's and forget who I am or where's the bathroom or which house I live in or whether I ate breakfast or who my friends are. Isn't that a really terrible way to go? Luckily, we can change our odds with better diet choices.

For the study, researchers examined the diets of 8,085 men and women over the age of 65 who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. Over four years of follow-up, 183 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease and 98 developed another type of dementia.

The study found people who regularly consumed omega-3 rich oils, such as canola oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil, reduced their risk of dementia by 60 percent compared to people who did not regularly consume such oils. People who ate fruits and vegetables daily also reduced their risk of dementia by 30 percent compared to those who didn’t regularly eat fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables aren't much fun unless someone with considerable culinary skills transforms them into something tasty. Still, I managed to eat half a head of cabbage today.

But if you have the ApoE4 genetic variant the story is not so good. Does any kind of food help those who have ApoE4?

The study also found people who ate fish at least once a week had a 35-percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and 40-percent lower risk of dementia, but only if they did not carry the gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, called apolipoprotein E4, or ApoE4.

“Given that most people do not carry the ApoE4 gene, these results could have considerable implications in terms of public health,” said study author Pascale Barberger-Gateau, PhD, of INSERM, the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, in Bordeaux, France. “However, more research is needed to identify the optimal quantity and combination of nutrients which could be protective before implementing nutritional recommendations.”

In addition, the study found people who did not carry the ApoE4 gene and consumed an unbalanced diet characterized by regular use of omega-6 rich oils, but not omega-3 rich oils or fish were twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those who didn’t eat omega-6 rich oils, which include sunflower or grape seed oil. The study did not find any association between consuming corn oil, peanut oil, lard, meat or wine and lowering risk of dementia.

I find it curious that corn oil and peanut oil didn't appear to deliver a net harm. However, given that you are limited in how many calories you can consume corn and peanut oil really have a cost: They reduce the amount of healthier oils and healthier other foods you can eat.

Beta carotene, a nutrient found in many vegetables and fruits, seems to slow down cognitive decline if taken for 15 years or longer.

Men who take beta carotene supplements for 15 years or longer may have less cognitive decline, according to a report in the November 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Decreases in cognitive ability—thinking, learning and memory skills—strongly predict dementia, a growing public health issue, according to background information in the article. Long-term cellular damage from “oxidative stress” may be a major factor in cognitive decline. Some evidence suggests that antioxidant supplements may help preserve cognition, although previous studies have been inconclusive, the authors note.

Francine Grodstein, Sc.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues studied the antioxidant beta carotene and its effect on cognitive ability in two groups of men. The long-term group included 4,052 men who in 1982 had been randomly assigned to take placebo or 50 milligrams of beta carotene every other day. Between 1998 and 2001, an additional 1,904 men were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. Both groups were followed through 2003, completing yearly follow-up questionnaires with information about their health and their compliance with taking the pills. The men were assessed by telephone for cognitive function at least once between 1998 and 2002.

Rather than take beta carotene you are better off eating the fruits and vegetables that contain the beta carotene and other antioxidants.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 14 07:39 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies


Comments
Dennis Mangan said at November 14, 2007 9:31 PM:

Excellent post, thanks for that. Unfortunately, some sort of groundswell is developing that says that diet has no effect on health.

David Govett said at November 14, 2007 10:51 PM:

What was it I'm supposed to eat?

odograph said at November 15, 2007 9:14 AM:

"Vegetables aren't much fun unless someone with considerable culinary skills transforms them into something tasty."

two words, "Indian buffet." (esp. the one at the back of an Indian market)

Though, of course, steel yourself if you are trying for caloric restriction at the same time.

TTT said at November 15, 2007 12:07 PM:

Randall,

So when are you going to do a grand unifying nutrition post?

You have hundreds of articles saying why 'cabbage is beneficial due to X', while 'turmeric is beneficial due to Y' and 'tomatoes are beneficial due to Z'.

But I request that you do an article that aggregates LINKS to all these prior articles, so what we can see exactly what we gain from eating cabbage vs. broccoli vs. blueberries vs. garlic. Or if we are worried specifically about colon cancer, that we should eat Broccoli, wheat bran, prunes, etc.

You have tons of good articles, but you need to index them into one unifed article.

This article is something I would bookmark, and so would thousands of other people.

Please do it.

TTT said at November 15, 2007 12:17 PM:

The best way to make cabbage more palatable, as well as ensure that you are getting a lot of turmeric (which itself has many benefits) is something I have eaten once a week for my whole life.

Cabbage Sabzi>

The onions, potatos, etc. are optional. You can keep it as plain cabbage w/ turmeric and spices if you like, and you can also easily add garlic and ginger.

So, you achieve the goal of getting Cabbage + Turmeric + Garlic + Ginger in just one dish that takes 20 minutes to make. All of these ingredients are dirt cheap too - this will cost you under $1/meal.

I tell you, I am 34 but look 25, and it might be because of eating this for a lifetime. My grandmother is 91 and going strong.

Engineer-Poet said at November 21, 2007 7:01 PM:

How about an explanation of what urad dal and chili leaves are, for those of us who found no enlightenment in the recipe?

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