Published on: March 12, 2012
by Carolyn Susman for Palm Beach Daily News
What you eat can affect your brain, especially if you are 70 or older.
Recent research done at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona suggests that consuming between 2,100 and 6,000 calories per day may double the risk of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment, among people age 70 and older.
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th annual meeting in April, but researchers thought it was intriguing enough to publish it early online.
MCI is the stage between normal memory loss that comes with aging and early Alzheimer’s disease.
“The higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI,” said study author Dr. Yonas E. Geda, who is with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 1,233 people between the ages of 70 and 89 who didn’t have dementia. Of those, 163 had mild cognitive impairment. Participants reported the amount of calories they ate or drank in a food questionnaire.
Historically, self-reporting — when people answer questionnaires — can be unreliable, but Mayo researchers seem to feel their data is good.
One-third of the participants consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day, one-third between 1,526 and 2,143, and one-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.
The odds of having MCI more than doubled for those in the highest calorie-consuming group compared to those in the lowest calorie-consuming group. The results were the same after adjusting for history of stroke, diabetes, amount of education, and other factors that can affect risk of memory loss. There was no significant difference in risk for the middle group.
I asked Dr. Ron Davis, head of the Scripps Florida neuroscience division, what he thought of these findings, considering he hadn’t read the original study report.
“There is a clear relationship between diet and health, whether it be brain health or the health of other organ systems,” he said. “There is no reason to think the brain is isolated from the bad things we do to our bodies. Anything that is bad for your liver, your heart, your kidneys, etc., will be bad for your brain in some way and this will lead to increased risk of brain disorders.”
Study author Geda seemed to agree in a press release Mayo Clinic distributed. “Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age,” he is quoted as saying. He didn’t say simpler than what.
But this is fascinating and presents yet another reason for us to be careful about what we eat and how much we consume. It’s right up there with keeping your mind engaged through doing puzzles, alternating the routes you usually take home, or keeping socialized. While these approaches don’t guarantee a healthy brain or a sharp mind, they may well contribute to those goals.
And reading information on the American Academy of Neurology website — aan.com — can also engage your brain, and remind you how sometimes advice can be confusing.
The academy released a study showing that Omega 3 oils may well be protective of your brain. You may have been reading the same reports elsewhere.
Pick up Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Program for Reversing Diabetes, and the vegan — who advocates no meat, fish, poultry, or even much olive oil — refutes the value of Omega 3 from fish, saying fish contains saturated fats we don’t need. He steadfastly advocates a diet without any animal products at all.
So much for thinking there is agreement on these issues. When it comes down to it, you still have to make your own judgments.
Although it’s great to celebrate the big achievements, it’s also important to celebrate the small wins.
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