THE ROLE OF DIET IN COGNITIVE ABILITY

It seems that every day I learn about more studies being conducted on the importance of the foods we eat (or do not eat), and how that impacts every aspect of our lives from skin disorders to brain changes, and from our ability to sleep well to acquiring chronic disease conditions.  An article in Medical News Today entitled “Link Between Diet, Nutrient Levels & Cognitive Ability, Brain Shrinkage,” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/239836.php) relates findings by researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.  It’s important to note that this study was conducted on elders with an average age of 87 years old.  They tested blood samples for 30 nutrient biomarkers and 42 of the 104 participants also had MRI scans to measure brain volume.  The study showed that those elders with the highest levels of vitamins B, C, D, and E as well as “marine fatty acids” had the most favorable cognitive outcomes and brain size measurements.  Researchers remarked that the worst cognitive performances were from elders with a higher intake of trans-fats (baked and fried foods, margarine, fast food, etc.).  One aspect I did not see addressed in this study was the hydration level of these elders.  I know just how crucial it is for our cognitive abilities to keep ourselves well hydrated, and when we become even a little dehydrated, our cognitive abilities suffer.

What I love about this study is that it was conducted on elders, and they used blood nutrient levels instead of diet logs and relying on people’s memories of what they ate.  To me, it’s another important flag demanding we pay attention to just what foods we’re putting into our bodies, and we should all be pushing for better nutrition.  Better nutrition not only for each of us, but for our children, and our elders in hospitals and nursing homes.  We need more studies like this.

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