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Study: Diet Affects Brain Size

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Omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients such as vitamins C, D, E, and B, can prevent brain shrinkage according to a study in the December issue of the journal Neurology.

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University found a definite correlation between nutrients found in vitamin and Omega 3 rich foods and the brain, though the exact benefits have yet to be determined.

“It’s not entirely clear, but it looks like the healthy oils may help protect small areas of the brain,” lead study author Dr. Gene Bowman said.

Foods rich in Omega 3 include flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, shrimp, tofu, tuna scallops, soybeans and halibut.

The results of the study also confirmed that diets high in trans fats also contributed to the brain becoming smaller, and having less memory function. “Trans Fats replace good fat in the Brain like DHA,” said Dr. Bowman. “They change the structural components in cells and impact how cells function.”

Many fast foods, bakery products, and prepackaged goods all contain high levels of trans fat and should be watched or avoided all together for proper brain health, according to scientists.

Researchers gathered 104 people in their late 80′s, and gauged their brain health by using memory testing and blood analysis. For the first time nutrient biomarkers in the blood were used to determine brain health, as opposed to the usual method of only observing one nutrient at a time. According to Dr. Bowman, this new method provides some good benefits.

“Looking at the biomarkers takes into account geriatric factors like metabolism, and how the brain absorbs nutrients as we age, and using biomarkers cuts out those obstacles,” said Dr. Bowman.

He also believes that this research can impact other areas of health studies. “This model can be important for other diseases. It could be applied to cardiovascular, or certain cancer studies and effect treatment, change the standard of care, and improve public health.”

Bowman also said that these results are also able to empower people and put the issue of brain health partially in their hands. “These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.”

Photo by Aaron Savage
Photo by Aaron Savage
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