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Study Links Healthy Diets and Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Through studying blood levels of a variety of vitamins and nutrients, researchers found that seniors who had high levels of certain vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids performed better in a series of cognitive tests.

The study involved 104 relatively healthy seniors, with an average age of 87. Each participant’s blood was studied. Researchers measured the seniors’ blood level for many nutrients such as vitamins B, C, D, and E, saturated fat, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol, and trans fats. Participants were also asked to undergo a series of cognitive assessments and a MRI scan to measure brain size. Researchers found that participants who had high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids scored better on the tests than those with lower levels of these nutrients. Conversely, participants who had high levels of trans fats in their blood took longer to complete the test and generally scored lower in the cognitive assessment.

Researchers found that known Alzheimer’s risk factors, such as age, gender, and genetic factors, accounted for 46 percent of the variation in cognitive performance, while 17 percent of the difference could be explained by diet. The study was the first to measure the association between diet and brain aging based on blood levels of nutrients, while past studies relied on self-reporting of dietary habits. The results, though preliminary, indicate that a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and fish, could help prevent cognitive decline.

Learn more about the study conducted by Oregon Health & Science University in the Time article: How Your Diet May Affect Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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