A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition has linked certain nutrients to better memory and larger brain structure in older adults. The results suggest that optimizing our nutrition in combination with other healthy habits may lead to better cognition and better physical health as we age.
The study included 111 healthy adults with an average age of 69.1 years. Their nutrition was examined through 52 nutrient biomarkers in their blood, and their cognition and brain health were measured using a standardized scale and MRI imaging.
The results showed that cognition and brain health were tied to biomarkers related to the consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Examples of foods containing monounsaturated fatty acids include avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils such as olive and canola oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids include well-known nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6, and these fatty acids can be found in foods including flax seeds, fish, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and plant-based oils such as safflower, soybean, grapeseed, and flaxseed. Additionally, the results of the study showed that better brain health and cognition were related to biomarkers for omega-6, omega-7, and omega-9 fatty acids.
One of the authors noted that this research gives a holistic picture of brain health and healthy aging by linking brain structure, cognition, and nutrition in one picture. Notably, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown in many studies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve cardiovascular outcomes. Omega-3 can be supplemented or acquired through a diet rich in fish, flax seeds, nuts, and other sources. Polyunsaturated fats are recommended by the American Heart Association as part of a healthy diet. Increasing our intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids will likely lead to better brain health, heart health, and cognition as we age.