Resolve to Add 5 Nutrients to Your Diet in 2012 to Protect Your Brain
Since it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, here’s a good one to make if you’re worried (like I am) about developing Alzheimer’s sometime in your life. Time.com reporter Alice Park is reporting on a new study that is the first of its kind to link five specific nutrients that we consume to cognitive performance and the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team led by Dr. Gene Bowman, a nutritional epidemiologist at Oregon Health & Science University, studied 104 healthy people whose average age was 87. The researchers measured the participants’ dietary nutrient content through blood work (instead of through observational studies that asked participants what they had eaten). The participants’ blood was analyzed to determine the levels of each nutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, saturated fats, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and trans fats. Participants also took part in cognitive tests and had MRI scans.
“Researchers found that people 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 attention tasks and visual and spatial skills, than those with lower levels of these nutrients,” Park wrote. “People who had higher levels of trans fats in their blood, by contrast, scored lower on these tests; they took more time overall to complete the tests and had more trouble with memory and language skills.”
Interestingly, the findings from this study also suggest that specific nutritional treatments may help an individual combat identified brain functions that are declining. For example, participants who had higher levels of vitamins B, C, D and E had better memories, but had difficulty with attention and visual-spatial tasks. People who had higher levels of carotenoids had more difficulty with memory.
Admittedly, this study is very small; a larger study needs to be conducted to confirm the findings. Still, I think the information is worthwhile in that it gives us just more ammunition about what steps we can proactively take (such as eating a more healthy diet) in our individual efforts to protect our brains.
So besides multivitamins and supplements, where can you find the nutrients that Bowman’s team found to be beneficial? Here’s a list of food sources:
- Vitamin B – This vitamin has several components, according to Livestrong.com. Vitamin B1 (or thiamin) can be found in pork, green peas, and whole-grain or fortified cereal, pasta and bread. Niacin is found in peanut butter, beans, avocado, fortified grains, fish, beef and poultry. Vitamin B-6 is found in baked potatoes, bananas, enriched cereals, whole grains, beans, nuts, beef, pork, chicken and fish. Folate is found in broccoli, spinach, Romaine lettuce, avocado, orange juice, fortified cereals, pasta, bread and flour. Vitamin B-12 is found in all types of dairy, eggs, meat and seafood, as well as fortified soy products, brewer’s yeast, and cereal. Biotin is found in chard, Romaine lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, eggs, halibut, milk and oats. Vitamin B5 is found in cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, corn, strawberries, calf’s liver, yogurt and eggs.
- Vitamin C - The George Mateljan Foundation reported that this vitamin is found in parsley, broccoli, bell pepper, strawberries, oranges, lemon juice, papaya, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, and cantaloupe.
- Vitamin D - The George Mateljan Foundation stated that this vitamin can be found in salmon, sardines, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, shiitake mushrooms and eggs. Wild-caught salmon had significantly more vitamin D than farm-raised salmon.
- Vitamin E - The George Mateljan Foundation reported that this vitamin can be found in spinach, chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, cayenne pepper, almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus and bell peppers.
- Omega-3 fatty acid - The George Mateljan Foundation also described several sources for this nutrient. These include sardines, flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp, tofu and tuna.
Happy New Year! And here’s to good brain-healthy meals in 2012!