These food nutrients are linked to slower brain ageing, scientists say

Scientists have found new evidence linking the nutrients found in a Mediterranean diet to slower brain ageing.

A study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US found that certain nutrients, including some types of fatty acids, antioxidants and plant pigments, may play a key role in the healthy ageing of the brain.

They hope their research may lead to better care for those predisposed to conditions like Alzheimer’s.

In the study, 100 cognitively healthy participants, aged 65-75, underwent a battery of tests including cognitive assessments, brain imaging, and blood analysis.

Scientists found a specific nutrient profile in the blood of those who performed better cognitively.

“The present study identifies particular nutrient biomarker patterns that are promising and have favorable associations with measures of cognitive performance and brain health,” Aron Barbey, one of the co-authors of the study, noted.

The beneficial nutrients included a combination of fatty acids such as vaccenic, gondoic, and alpha linolenic, as well as antioxidants and plant pigments cis-lutein, trans-lutein, and zeaxanthin, along with two forms of vitamin E and choline.

This nutrient profile is, in turn, correlated with nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet, which research has previously associated with healthy brain ageing.

“We investigated specific nutrient biomarkers, such as fatty acid profiles, known in nutritional science to potentially offer health benefits. This aligns with the extensive body of research in the field demonstrating the positive health effects of the Mediterranean Diet,” Dr Barbey said.

“We show that these brain properties are directly linked to diet and nutrition, as revealed by the patterns observed in nutrient biomarkers,” he said.

The new research, according to scientists, is one of the first and the largest to combine brain imaging, blood biomarkers and validated cognitive assessments.

However, scientists cautioned that the study is correlational and does not directly imply that switching to a diet involving these nutrients may lead to better brain ageing.

In subsequent research, they hope to conduct controlled clinical trials to specifically determine which nutrients have favourable associations with cognitive function and brain health, and see how people fare when these are administered in the form of nutraceuticals.

“This will allow us to definitively assess whether increasing the levels of these specific nutrient profiles reliably leads to improvements in cognitive test performance and measures of brain structure, function, and metabolism,” Dr Barbey said.


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