A study by the American Academy of Neurology in 2012 found that choosing foods which are filled with the right nutrients can have improve mental and neurological health.
The study found that elderly people who had high levels of B vitamins, vitamins C, D and E and omega fatty acids had less brain shrinkage (a typical symptom of Alzheimer’s disease) as well as better mental performance.
On the flip side, people with higher levels of trans fats (found in a variety of junk foods, such fried, packaged, sugary and fast foods) in their blood had poorer performance in thinking and memory tests. MRI scans also revealed more brain shrinkage than people who had lower trans fats levels.
So what to eat? Research from the University of Columbia found a Mediterranean style diet which is high in fruit, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, poultry, nuts, fish and olive oil and lower in full-fat dairy products, red meat and butter reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.
Salmon and mackerel are both rich in omega-3 fatty acids which produces docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) a substance which is believed to be important for brain function as research in American has found that DHA is needed to produce a protein which fights the build-up of amyloid plaques, these are the deposits in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s.
Some studies have suggested that those who eat oil rich fish regularly could have a lower risk of cognitive decline. Although this is not yet conclusive the evidence does suggest that following the guidelines of two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily, would be a good idea.
Although some fat is necessary in the diet for the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, it is best to cut down on saturated fat which can clog the arteries and therefore reduce blood flow to the heart and brain. By keeping the arteries clear you will reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, stroke and heart disease.
Anthocyanins are natural antioxidants which are found in high levels in red and dark purple berries and it has long been known that they could protect the brain as they mop up the damaged cells which can harm the healthy ones so include a handful of blueberries, blackcurrants, strawberries and raspberries every day.