The benefits the brain gets from a Mediterranean-type weight loss program, coupled with a compatible dietary style, may be attributed to nutrients that aid in reducing brain inflammation and neural aging, according to a recent study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).
The findings, which were discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London, provide a glimpse on the correlation between the diet and the likelihood of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease for older people.
“Several studies have shown that adhering more closely to a dietary pattern that emphasizes fish, poultry, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of alcohol — versus red meat, high-fat dairy products, and saturated fats — has a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease,” neuropsychologist and epidemiologist Yian Gu, Ph.D. reports. Dr. Gu is also part of the team who authored the study.
The study, titled “An Inflammatory Nutrient Pattern Is Associated with Both Structural and Cognitive Measures of Brain Aging in the Elderly”, determined that an increase in the levels of inflammatory biomarkers had been related to a higher risk of brain atrophy.
In this study, researchers looked at the connection between frequent consumption of various nutrients and the levels of two key irritation markers (C-reactive protein and interleukin-6), neuron-rich gray matter volume, and cognitive performance in 330 elderly adults who did not have dementia. Tthe goal of the study was to determine the relationship between the brain and the circulating inflammatory biomarkers c-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL6), and alpha 1-antichymotrypsin (ACT) through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study sampled MRI data from 680 non-demented elderly (who had a mean age of 80.1 years) participants from a community-based, multi-ethnic cohort. At least 75 percent of the sample were measured for peripheral inflammatory biomarkers (CRP, IL6, and ACT) as well.
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The study used MRI scans to measure brain volume and cortical thickness over repeated periods spanning four and a half years. Diffusion tensor imaging was used to examine the participants’ mean fractional anisotropy as the indicator of white matter integrity. The research then evaluated the relationship between inflammatory biomarkers with brain volume, cortical thickness, and white matter integrity using regression models adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, education, apolipoprotein (APOE) genotype, and intracranial volume.
They observed that elderly adults who ate more omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, folate, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, D, and E had decreased levels of inflammatory markers, more gray matter, and better visuospatial cognition than people who consumed fewer quantities of the vitamins. The study concludes that having healthy, better-preserved gray matter could be a result of the diet as an increased consumption of the vitamins may aid in improved cognition. For older adults, the increase in circulating inflammatory biomarkers was identified with smaller brain volume and cortical thickness but not the white matter tract integrity. In addition to this, the study’s initial findings suggested peripheral inflammatory processes can be a factor for elders who experience brain atrophy.
“This study suggests that certain nutrients may contribute to the previously observed health benefits of some foods, and anti-inflammation might be one of the mechanisms,” says Dr. Gu. “We hope to confirm these results in larger studies and with a wider range of inflammatory markers.”
Aside from Dr. Gu, other authors include Jennifer J. Manly, Richard P. Mayeux, and Adam M Brickman. The National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institutes of Health helped finance the study.