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Can a Healthy Diet Reduce Risk of Alzheimers - Role of Vitamins, Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Updated on November 17, 2016
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Dr John uses his Biochemistry & Physiology research background (PhD) to develop authoritative reviews of dieting, weight loss, obesity, food

Previous surveys have shown that people who engage in regular exercise, who keep their brains active and who eat healthy diets high in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids tend to preserve their brain function as they get older.

However, so far there has been little definitive research involving randomized trials that demonstrates a cause and effect link between Alzheimer's Disease, nutrients and diet. Many studies of elderly patients, where one group was given dietary supplements and the other a placebos, have generally been inconclusive.

Similarly previous studies have not showed a significant correlation between the nutrients in supplements and brain function abilities like memory, reasoning, language, and cognitive tests.

This article discusses recent research on this topic.

The Eat Well Plate
The Eat Well Plate | Source

A recent research study, which looked directly at the levels of vitamins and other nutrients in the blood, found significant correlations between healthy diets and better brain function and the size of the parts of the brain associated with Alzheimer's Disease. This offers hope of reducing the risk of developing this disease through healthy diets.

Similarly while it has been shown that regular exercise can prevent the decline in muscle mass as people get older (See:Muscle Loss with Age | If you Don't Use it You Will Lose It!), there has been no link between nutrient intake and brain size.

Recent research has also shown positive signs that diet many be linked to the preservation of brain function and size in the elderly.

The research, recently published in the journal Neurology, demonstrated that subjects with healthier diets that were rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins had larger brains and better brain function than those with unhealthy diets.

Unlike previous studies that have used questionnaires to compare diets, this study directly measured the levels of vitamins and fatty acids in the blood.

The study involved over 100 healthy elderly people with an average age of 87.

Researchers took blood samples and analyzed them for a variety of nutrients and vitamins, including vitamins B ( folate, B2, B1, B6, B12), C, D and E, carotenoids, saturated fat, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids and trans fats.

They then looked for correlations between the levels of these substances and the participants’ performance in various cognitive tests.

The diets of the subjects were not compared, only the levels of the nutrients in the blood MRI scans were used to estimate the size of parts of the brain related to Alzheimer’s.

The team found that

  • subjects who had higher levels of vitamins E, B, C and D and omega-3 fatty acids in their blood, performed better in the mental-function tests, including tests of attention, spatial skills and visual skills.
  • subjects who had elevated levels of trans fats in their blood, generally scored lower on these tests - they took longer to complete the tests, and showed poorer memory and language skills.

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • janderson99 profile image

    Dr. John Anderson 5 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Thanks for your comments

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Great research and data provided. Also a good reminder, we are what we eat!