In The Brains Of Alzheimer's Patients, These Nutrients Are Lower, Study Finds
It's no secret that a healthy diet translates to so many other benefits, from more energy, to better gut health, and more. And according to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, certain nutrients could help protect against the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Here's what they found.
Studying Alzheimer's disease and the brain
For this study, researchers from the Rush University Memory and Aging Project analyzed the diets and cognitive performance of over 1,000 participants for more than a decade, specifically looking at carotenoid intake.
After the study was complete, the team observed that participants who followed the MIND diet (a hybrid between the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which are both popular for their heart and brain health benefits) had a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, higher cognitive performance, and less Alzheimer's-related brain pathology than those who weren't following the MIND diet.
Further, participants who were getting the highest amount of carotenoids, or the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, had as much as a 50% lower risk of Alzheimer's. Participants whose brains showed Alzheimer's neuropathology, meanwhile, had significantly lower levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, tocopherols, and retinol—up to half the amounts seen in normal brains.
The study authors note that their research isn't the first to suggest higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are linked with better cognitive function and lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's, but this study is the first to demonstrate the deficits in dietary antioxidants present in Alzheimer's brains.
What to do about it
As professor and study co-author C. Kathleen Dorey Ph.D. explains in a news release, "These results are consistent with large population studies that found risk for Alzheimer's disease was significantly lower in those who ate diets rich in carotenoids, or had high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood, or accumulated in their retina as macular pigment," adding, "Not only that, but we believe eating carotenoid-rich diets will help keep brains in top condition at all ages."
The reason being, the study authors explain, is that the brain is vulnerable to cumulative oxidative damage, but this damage can be prevented by antioxidants found in a healthy diet.
And when it comes to dietary choices, think colorful fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. You can check out our full guide to the MIND diet here for more information.
It's not a stretch to say that a healthy aging brain very much begins on your plate—and one that's full of antioxidant-rich foods, at that. With a colorful plate and a targeted multivitamin on hand, you can keep all those essential antioxidant levels up, and your brain sharp and clear.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.