Tag Archives: diet

How Does Diet Affect Brain Aging?

Brain FoodDoes your diet affect how your brain functions? Are there foods you can eat that will delay brain aging? If so, what are they?

There’s a fascinating new study dealing with these sorts of questions that was done at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the December 28, 2011, online edition of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 104 volunteers who were elderly (average age 87) but relatively healthy. Researchers analyzed their blood for a variety of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins B, C, D and E, saturated fat, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and trans fats.

Then they compared those levels to the participants’ performance on cognitive tests as well as to MRI scans showing the size of their brains.

These are some of the highlights of the study:

  • Participants who had higher blood levels of vitamins B, C, D and E and omega-3 fatty acids scored higher on the mental-function tests, including memory tests, than those with lower levels of these nutrients.

    Vitamins B, C and E are high in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids are found primarily in the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon.

  • These participants also tended to have larger brain size.
  • On the other hand, people who had higher levels of trans fats in their blood scored lower on these tests. They took more time overall to complete the tests and had more trouble with memory and language skills.
  • Trans fats come largely from packaged, fried, frozen and fast foods, along with baked goods and margarine spreads.

  • These people also had more brain shrinkage. (Some amount of brain atrophy, or shrinkage, occurs with aging. However, more significant shrinkage is associated with mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.)

This study is observational. That means that it observed an association between these nutrients and brain size and function, but it did not establish a cause and effect relationship. Therefore, more research is needed.

In the meantime, however, the advice that we get so often is also suggested by this study: Eat more fruits and vegetables and fish, and avoid trans fats.
Fruits and Vegetables

Organic Strawberries Are Healthier, Tastier, And Better For The Soil Than Conventional Strawberries

Strawberries
Strawberries

Many of us have puzzled over whether to pry open our wallets and pay extra for organic fruits and vegetables.

Intuitively, we believe that organic food is healthier than food produced conventionally using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

However, frankly, there has been very little research to support this belief.

Until now.

A recently released comprehensive study conducted by scientists from Washington State University concludes that organically grown strawberries are healthier, tastier and better for the soil than conventionally grown strawberries.

The study was well conceived and thorough.

The researchers compared 13 organic with 13 conventional strawberry fields in California over a two year period. To control for soil type and weather patterns, the fields were planted in pairs, one organic and one conventional field next to each other. The strawberries from all fields were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions.

Here are more details of the study’s conclusions . . .

  • The organic strawberries were higher quality. They had increased antioxidants, vitamin C, and total phenolics. Taste-testers generally rated them higher.
  • Organic strawberry plants showed fewer instances of post-harvest fungal rot than conventional strawberries, despite the fact that no fungicides were used on the organic fields. (The study notes this finding may prove that organic systems help defend plants against infection through systemic-acquired resistance rather than chemical inputs.)
  • Despite the conventional practice of spraying soils with synthetic fertilizers, the study found that organic fields contained significantly higher amounts of nutrients.

Let me see if I’ve got this. Higher quality and better tasting fruit, healthier plants and healthier soil. That’s win-win-win by my calculations.

I’m going to keep spending more to get organic fruits and vegetables because I believe they are better for us and for our planet. And, now, I have more than intuition to support that decision.

Here’s the journal reference for the study: John P. Reganold, Preston K. Andrews, Jennifer R. Reeve, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, Christopher W. Schadt, J. Richard Alldredge, Carolyn F. Ross, Neal M. Davies, Jizhong Zhou. Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (9): e12346 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012346