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Nutrient levels account for a 17% variation in memory and thinking ability, and a 37% variation in brain volume in a group of study individuals.
A study published in Neurology has found that certain nutrients work together synergistically to promote brain health. The study looked at the effects of diet and nutrient intake in seniors on memory, thinking and brain volume.
The researchers recruited 104 individuals (average age 87) and measured blood levels of certain nutrients, as well as memory and thinking in all study participants. They also analyzed MRI scans to determine the brain volume of 42 of the subjects.
Participants in the study were healthy non-smokers with relatively few chronic diseases and free of memory and thinking problems. Most had generally healthy diets, but there were some with deficiencies of certain nutrients. This created enough variation to determine that nutrient status does play a significant role in memory, thinking, and brain volume. It was determined that nutrient levels accounted for 17% of the variation found in memory and thinking, and for the 37% of the variation in brain volume.
With this data, the researchers came to three conclusions. The first conclusion is that individuals with diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C, D, E, and B were more likely to score better on memory and thinking tests. Those with diets high in trans-fat were more likely to both score poorly on memory and thinking tests, and to have brain shrinkage. Finally, individuals with low omega-3 fatty acid intake and other nutrient intake are more likely to have lower brain volume.
Getting adequate nutrients through a balanced diet and supplements may be an important overall approach to maintaining good brain health and thinking ability as we age.
Bowman GL, Silbert LC, Howieson D, et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. 2012;78(4):241-9.
Compared to placebo, patients taking Vitamin E had slower functional decline and needed less caregiver assistance.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports on the benefit of high dose Vitamin E in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial involved 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. Participants were randomized to receive 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 20 milligrams of memantine, a combination of both, or a placebo daily. Average follow-up was 2.3 years.
Patients were analyzed on their capability to perform daily living activities, memory and language, cognitive function, behavioral and psychological issues, and the time needing caregiver assistance. The data was measured and collected at the beginning of the study and every six months during the trial.
Over the years of follow-up, scores declined by 3.15 units less in the Vitamin E group compared with the placebo group. In the memantine group, the scores declined 1.98 units less than the decline in the placebo group. Compared to the placebo group, those taking Vitamin E had an average delay in clinical progression of 19% per year, or approximately 6.2 months over the follow-up period.
Patients receiving the vitamin also needed less caregiver assistance in comparison with the placebo group. There was no significant difference in all-cause mortality or safety issues reported between the placebo and Vitamin E groups.
This study showed that high dose Vitamin E appears to slow functional decline and caregiver burden in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: the TEAM-AD VA cooperative randomized trial. JAMA. 2014;311(1):33-44.

salmonThe results of a new meta-analysis shows that long-term supplementation with omega-3s reduce blood markers of inflammation and may reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory-related diseases.

Inflammation is known to play a role in numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity-related diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.  Omega-3 fatty acids have often been linked to providing benefits regarding these conditions, likely due to their anti-inflammatory function.

In a recent meta-analysis published in the online journal PLoS One, scientists reviewed the literature to determine the effect of marine-derived omega-3s on blood levels of several markers of inflammation.

The meta-analysis included 4,601 participants from 68 randomized, controlled trials of healthy subjects, subjects with chronic autoimmune diseases, and subjects with chronic non-autoimmune diseases (ie. cardiovascular disease). Fasting blood levels of the inflammatory markers TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor-alpha), IL-6 (interleukin-6) and CRP (C-reactive protein) were compiled and analyzed. Researchers also separated studies using omega-3s from supplementation as active treatment with those using omega-3s from dietary intake (fish) and included them into different meta-analyses.

A combined analysis of all study subjects revealed a significant link between omega-3 supplementation and decreased blood levels of CRP and IL-6. Among the subjects with chronic non-autoimmune disease, a longer duration of supplementation related to an even greater reduction in blood levels of IL-6 and TNF-a.  A similar finding was observed for IL-6 levels among healthy subjects. Higher dietary intake of omega-3s did result in lower IL-6 levels, but fish intake alone (without supplementation) did not appear to lower CRP or TNF-a.  The benefits of omega-3 supplementation were also more significant in non-obese subjects (BMI <30), particularly in the chronic non-autoimmune disease group.

The results of this study confirm that long-term supplementation of omega-3s from fish oil can effectively lower inflammatory markers and may help reduce the risk of chronic inflammation.

Source:
Li K, Huang et al.  PLoS ONE (2014); 9(2): e88103.

Avocado elerly-manA recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported on the benefits of vitamin E supplementation in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers sought to determine if vitamin E, memantine (an ACE inhibitor), or both would slow progression of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial involved 613 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer (AD). Participants were randomized to receive 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin E, or 20 milligrams of memantine, or a combination of both, or a placebo daily. The average follow-up was 2.3 years.

Patients were analyzed on their capability to perform daily living activities, memory and language, cognitive function, behavioral and psychological issues, and the time needing caregiver assistance. The data was measured and collected at the beginning of the study and every six months during the trial. Over the years of follow-up, scores declined by 3.15 units less in the Vitamin E group compared with the placebo group. In the memantine group, the scores declined 1.98 units less than the decline in the placebo group. Compared to the placebo group, those taking Vitamin E had an average delay in clinical progression of 19% per year, or approximately 6.2 months over the follow-up period.

Patients receiving the vitamin also needed less caregiver assistance in comparison with the placebo group. There was no significant difference in all-cause mortality or safety issues reported between the placebo and Vitamin E groups.

This study showed that high dose Vitamin E (2000 IU) appears to slow functional decline and decrease caregiver burden in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Source:
Maurice W. Dysken, MD et al. JAMA 2014; 311(1):33-44.

elerly-womanThere are numerous studies reporting the health benefits of increased fish consumption and higher intakes of the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends that, to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, all adult Australians should consume 500 mg/day of combined EPA and DHA through 2–3 serves (150g serve) of oily fish per week and fish oil supplementation. For older adults, the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher; therefore, dietary strategies including increased intake of fish and omega-3 PUFA to reduce risk are necessary.

In the latest cross-sectional survey, 854 Australians (>= 51 yrs of age) were randomly selected to complete either an online survey or telephone interview. The survey included the quantitative fish frequency questionnaire and open- and closed-ended survey questions on demographics and supplement usage.

The survey found that on average:
•             The frequency of finfish/seafood consumption was 1.7 times per week (median intake 173 g);
•             13% never consumed finfish/seafood, or consumed less than once per month;
•             34% ate any type of finfish/seafood more than two times per week;
•             Only 28% consumed just 500 mg long-chain omega-3 PUFA per day from finfish/seafood alone;
•             The mean daily intake of long-chain omega-3 PUFA was 508 mg;

These data indicate that trends in fish intake in Australia are increasing. Although this is encouraging, the current survey still found that only 44% consumed finfish/seafood at least twice per week.  Among older Australians, the current fish consumption is low and many do not meet the current recommendations. Strategies to enhance intake to meet dietary recommendations in this older age group are required.

Source: Grieger, J A et al. Nutrition & Dietetics 2013; 70: 227–235

A recent study indicates that supplementation of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in healthy young adults with low dietary DHA intakes may improve memory and reaction time.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for brain function, and its status is dependent on dietary intakes. Therefore, individuals who consume diets low in omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids may cognitively benefit from DHA supplementation. Sex and apolipoprotein E genotype (APOE) affect cognition and may modulate the response to DHA supplementation.

It is known that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important for neural development, and much research has been conducted regarding the benefit of DHA in elderly populations.  In a recent study, scientists investigated whether a DHA supplement improves cognitive performance such as memory and reaction time in healthy young adults and whether there was a different response between genders.

The study included 176 adult men and women between the ages of 18 and 45. The participants were non-smoking and had self-reported low dietary DHA intakes. The subjects were randomized to receive either a supplement of DHA (1.16 grams) or a placebo daily for six months. Cognitive performance was analyzed using battery of tests including episodic and working memory, attention, reaction time of episodic and working memory, and attention and processing speed. The tests were administered before and after the treatment period.

At the end of the study, when compared with the placebo, those who received DHA showed improvement in the reaction time of episodic and working memory.  DHA improved episodic memory in women and reaction times of working memory in men.

This is the first study to show that DHA supplementation may improve memory and reaction time of memory in healthy non-smoking adults whose diets are habitually low in DHA. It also indicates that response to supplementation may be modulated by sex.

Source:
Welma Stonehouse et al. Am J Clin Nutr May 2013. 97(5):1134-43.

A latest study found that ginkgo biloba may be beneficial in slowing down the cognitive decline in the elderly population.

Age-related cognitive decline is one of the main challenges of mental health research. As no curative treatment for dementia presently exists, an alternative would be to find strategies that could contribute to attenuating cognitive decline in the elderly. In France, Ginkgo biloba extract has been marketed for more than thirty years as a medication for memory impairment, and is well-known for its effect on the protection of neuronal cell membranes from free radical damage.

In a recent cohort study, French scientists assessed the association between intake of ginkgo biloba extract and cognitive function of elderly adults over a 20-year period. The data were gathered from the prospective community-based study ‘Paquid’. This study included a sample of 3612 non-demented participants aged 65 and over at baseline. Three groups were compared: 589 subjects reporting use of a ginkgo biloba extract; 149 subjects reporting use of piracetam – a nootropic drug; and 2874 subjects not reporting use of either. Decline on MMSE (as an evaluation of mental status), verbal fluency and visual memory over the 20-year follow-up was analysed with a multivariate mixed linear effects model.

A significant difference in MMSE decline was observed in both of the treatment groups compared to the ‘neither treatment’ control group. The ginkgo biloba group declined less rapidly than the ‘neither treatment’ group, whereas the piracetam group declined more rapidly. Regarding verbal fluency and visual memory, no difference was observed between the ginkgo biloba group and the ‘neither treatment’ group, whereas the piracetam group declined more rapidly.

In conclusion, cognitive decline in a non-demented elderly population was lower in subjects who reported using ginkgo biloba than in those who did not. It appears that ginkgo biloba supplementation may have beneficial effect on long-term cognitive decline.

Source:
Amieva H, et al (2013). PLoS ONE 8(1): e52755. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052755

Studies revealed that the majority of the pediatric population may fall short of recommended dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids.

According to NHMRC Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, the daily Adequate Intake of essential fatty acids and omega-3 fats such as DHA/EPA/DPA is 55mg/day for children aged 4-8 years of age. However estimates of actual dietary intake of these beneficial fatty acids are limited in children.

A study in the Journal of Nutrition has published direct quantification of fatty acid intakes in 41 children aged 4-8 years.  Identical portions of all food and dietary supplements consumed over 3 days were collected. Duplicate samples were analyzed for calories, macronutrients, and fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Based on the dietary analysis, the children averaged 1,404 kcal energy intake per day, and their fatty acid intakes were at the following levels in mg/day: alpha-linolenic acid 1,611; EPA 38.4; DPA 26.3; and DHA 54.1.

Based on the US government recommended Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), 61% of the children met the adequate intake for ALA, and only 22% met the recommended intake for DHA + EPA. These intakes were compared with recently established Australia/New Zealand recommendations for children, where only about half the children (51%) met suggested intakes for EPA + DPA + DHA.

The result of this study indicates a significant deficit in the actual intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including DHA, among Canadian and Australian children when compared to recommended intakes. This deficit gap can be readily filled with an increased consumption of fish/seafood, foods (dairy products, breads, and others) that have been enriched with various delivery forms of omega-3 EFA, and the use of supplementation where necessary.

Source:
Madden SM et al; J Nutr. 2009 Mar; 139(3):528-32.

A recent study has shown that nutrient levels account for a 17% variation in memory and thinking ability, and a 37% variation in brain volume in a group of older individuals.

Lifestyle interventions such as diet, exercise, and cognitive training represent an effective approach to counteracting age-related declines in brain health.  A study published in the December issue of Neurology has found that certain nutrients work together synergistically to promote brain health. The study looked at the effects of diet and nutrient intake in seniors on memory, thinking and brain volume.

The researchers recruited 104 dementia-free elders (average age 87) and measured blood levels of certain nutrients, as well as memory, and thinking in all study participants. They also analysed MRI scans to determine the brain volume of 42 of the subjects.

Overall, participants in this study were healthy nonsmokers with relatively few chronic diseases and free of memory and thinking problems. Most had generally healthy diets, but there were some with deficiencies of certain nutrients. This created enough variation to determine that nutrient status does play a significant role in memory, thinking, and brain volume.

The study found that nutrient levels accounted for 17% of the variation found in memory and thinking, and for the 37% of the variation in brain volume.  Individuals with diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C, D, E, and B were more likely to score better on memory and thinking tests;  Those with diets high in trans-fat were more likely to both score poorly on memory and thinking tests, and to have brain shrinkage; And those with low omega-3 fatty acid intake and other nutrient intake are more likely to have lower brain volume.

This study provides evidence that adequate nutrition may be an important overall approach to maintaining good brain health and thinking ability as we age.

Source:
Bowman GL, et al; Neurology 2012 Jan 24;78(4):241-9. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

17 March 2012

Fats are a necessary part of dietary energy supply.  However the quality of dietary fats, particularly long-chain Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), plays critical roles in physiological functions such as central nervous system (CNS) development and visual function in infants and children.  In addition, the effect of dietary fats on lipids metabolism at an earlier age may be associated with cardiovascular mobidity and mortality in later life.

In recent years, there has been growing researches in the quality of dietary fat intake in early life as a major determinant of growth and development in children as well as long-term health.  The selection of dietary fatty acid sources during the first years of life is now considered to be of critical importance.

Lipids are structural components of all tissues and are indispensable for the assembly of membranes and cell organelles. The brain, retina and other neural tissues are particularly rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  For example, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of long-chain omega-3 PUFA, is a critical component of cell membranes, especially in the brain and the retina, and plays an important role in brain and visual function, due to its high content in cerebral cortex and retinal phospholipids.  DHA is considered conditionally essential during early development in childhood.

During the first 6 months of life, dietary total fat should contribute 40–60% of total energy to cover the energy needed for growth and the fat required for tissue deposition. From age 6 months to 3 years, fat intake requirements are reduced gradually to approximately 30–35% of energy depending on the physical activity of the child.  Many health organizations recommend that daily DHA intake should be between 0.2-0.5% of total fat intake for infants.  The daily Omega-3 intake for prevention of nutrition-related chronic disease should ideally fall within 1-2% of total energy intake for children over 2-yrs of age.

Vegetarian source of fats has virtually no long-chain PUFA unless algae are included in the diet.  Fish is the major source of the two important PUFAs – DHA and EPA.  Recent scientific evidence have shown that direct supply of DHA and EPA in the diet provides many health benefits including retinal and brain development and function during early childhood, cardiovascular health, inflammatory response, and allergy.  Balanced dietary intake of beneficial fats in childhood can influence risk of Cardio Vascular Diseases (CVD) later in life.

In summary, lifelong intakes of EPA and DHA are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, as well as optimal mental development, behaviour, and immune response. Since the dietary intakes of EPA and DHA among infants and children in many western and non-western countries are lower than desirable on a unit of body weight basis and as percent of total energy, it is prudent that parents take measures to ensure that their children obtain optimal levels of EPA and DHA through diet and supplementation where required.

Source:
R Uauy and AD. Dangour; Ann Nutr Metab 2009;55:76–96

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