Article Review: Specific Nutrient Patterns are Associated with Higher Structural Brain Integrity

Prinelli, F., Fratiglioni, L., Kalpouzos, G., Musicco, M., Adorni, F., Johansson, I., ... & Xu, W. (2019). Specific nutrient patterns are associated with higher structural brain integrity in dementia-free older adults. Neuroimage, 199, 281-288.

Article Review By: Mark J. Stern, Ph.D., Kristy S. Colling, Ph.D., and Robert Coben, Ph.D.

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Eating smart may have new meaning. We’ve all heard of a heart-healthy diet, but a brain-healthy diet? We are now learning that nutrition may play a key role in how well our brains age. As we get older the total brain volume and structural integrity of our brains naturally decline. The brain’s white matter, which is responsible for communication between brain regions, is particularly vulnerable to age-related vascular damage. White matter lesions tend to proliferate with age and can lead to reduced cognitive functioning as well as higher risk of stroke and dementia. Research has begun to show that specific nutrients may be particularly helpful in decreasing neuroinflammation and cerebrovascular dysfunction. For example, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with less total brain atrophy and less white matter lesions.

In a recent study, Prinelli and colleagues (2019) examined the relationship of nutritional and dietary patterns with measures of brain health in older adults (ages 60 - 96) without dementia. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to detect white matter lesions and total brain volume in 417 older adults who completed detailed dietary assessments. They found that diets with more cheese, cream, and butter were associated with more white matter damage. Higher consumption of cured and processed meat, offal, and dairy products was associated with smaller brain volume. On the other hand, diets that were richest in lean red meat, poultry, fish, vegetable oils, and margarine were associated with larger brain volumes, despite also having higher levels of cholesterol or monounsaturated fats. Only diets that were high in fiber, vitamin C, B1, B6, folate, and carotenoids from fruit, vegetables, legumes, and, to a lesser extent, olive and seed oils were associated with both larger brain volumes and less white matter damage. This diet was also associated with less sweets, sugars, and margarine. It seems that there may indeed be nutritional patterns that protect not only the body, but the brain as well.

Our American diets are usually high in these brain damaging foods and low in brain protecting foods. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out an optimal diet that supports your body and your brain. We can help. At Integrated Brain Health, we focus on the whole person, body and brain, to customize your health plan for your needs. It’s never too late or too early to start making steps towards healthier living. Take the first step and call us today at 479-225-3223 to learn more!

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