Good Fats Research

Brain Health

A 2015 study suggests the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is neuroprotective and slows age-related cognitive decline. In this observational study of 960 elderly adults (mean age, 81.4 years), researchers examined the impact of the MIND diet on cognitive change. After nearly five years, those who rigorously followed the MIND diet were 7.5 years younger cognitively than those with poor adherence. Slower decline was seen in five cognitive domains, with episodic memory, semantic memory and perceptual speed experiencing the greatest impact.

Findings from recent meta-analysis show fish consumption may protect against cognitive impairment. The meta-analysis of 21 studies (n = 181,580) examined the potential protective effects of fish consumption and total omega-3 intake on cognitive function. Results showed a weekly serving of fish, and more specifically, a 0.1 g/day intake of dietary DHA, were associated with lower risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, a linear dose-response relationship was not observed.

A study found both the Mediterranean and MIND diets may help protect cognition in older adults. Researchers used food frequency questionnaires to examine the dietary patterns of 5,907 seniors (mean age, 68 years). Data showed high adherence to the diet provided statistically significant results, with subjects experiencing a 35% decreased risk of cognitive decline. Moderate adherence resulted in a 15% reduced risk, though this protection was not statistically significant. The MIND diet had similar results.

Neurology published a cross-sectional research study that linked a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slower cognitive decline.

Subjects were 1219 adults age 65 and older without dementia. Researchers tracked what they ate for an average of 1.2 years before testing their blood for β-amyloid protein (indicative of plaque build-up in the brain). Of 10 nutrients examined, the only association found was with omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers found that higher consumption of this PUFA was linked with lower levels of β-amyloid, meaning these subjects had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and slower cognitive decline.

Research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine showed that following a Mediterranean diet produced cognitive benefits in older adults.

In this study, 334 participants between the ages of 55 and 80 were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, and a control diet with advice to reduce dietary fat. Participants followed this diet for four years. Cognitive testing was done prior to starting the diet and again at follow-up. Both groups on the Mediterranean diet showed improvements in cognitive function compared to the low-fat group. The olive oil group had better memory scores and those in the nut group showed the greatest improvements in executive function skills. The low-fat group showed declines in several cognitive measures.

A study published in International Journal of Community Based Nursing and Midwifery found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was effective in improving mild depression in pregnant women.

In this double-blind clinical trial, 80 women were randomly assigned into two groups. For six weeks, one group took an omega-3 supplement of 1000 mg, and the other took a placebo. Both groups took a depression inventory before and after the intervention. Results showed a reduced depression score in both groups, but the mean difference in scores was significantly higher in the intervention group. There were no complications for mothers or infants as a result of the supplementation.

A large meta-analysis, which included more than 1.5 million participants, looked at the relationship between adhering to the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruits, legume, grains, fish and moderate intake of red wine with meals) and mortality (death) as well as the incidence of cardiovascular disease and chronic neurological diseases. The results show that participants who closely followed the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 9% decrease in overall mortality, a 9% decrease in death related to cardiovascular disease, a 6% decrease in the incidence of or death from cancer and a 13% decrease in the incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.