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Protect Against Age-Related Cognitive Decline With Healthy Fats

Protect Against Age-Related Cognitive Decline With Healthy Fats

A team of researchers at the University of Bari-Policlinico in Bari, Italy, using prevalence data from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging (with nearly 6,000 subjects aged 65 to 84), found a statistically significant, inverse relationship between the amount of monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) consumed and cognitive decline.
The researchers concluded that, “in an elderly population of Southern Italy with a typical Mediterranean diet, high MUFA intakes appeared to be protective against age-related cognitive decline.

All aging humans will develop some degree of decline in cognitive capacity as time progresses. Data indicates that deterioration of the biological framework that underlies the ability to think and reason begins as early as the mid twenties and includes a drop in regional brain volume. Changes in the brain can cause a variety of symptoms associated with aging, such as forgetfulness, decreased ability to maintain focus and decreased problem solving capability. If left unchecked, symptoms often progress into more serious conditions, such as dementia and depression or even Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many other causes of cognitive decline but there are ways to guard against it. Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute says “there may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs.”
“Mediterranean diet” may sound like a trivial term, but it is used to refer to dietary patterns of people living in Crete and other regions in the Mediterranean in the early 1960s, where olive oil is a major fat source. In our study, monounsaturated fatty acids intake was significantly associated with a slower reduction of global cognitive functions and selective attention.

The way that elevated MUFA intake could be protective against cognitive decline in healthy older people are still unknown. But, the effect could be related to the role of dietary fatty acids in maintaining the structural integrity of neuronal membranes.

In general, a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet effects the overall health and well-being of older adults. At the same time, forgetting where you put your keys is normal. But, there are specific steps you can take to support a continually well-functioning brain, including eating good fats.

This article is provided as a public service by Westside Behavioral Care, a network of mental health therapists serving the Denver metropolitan area. Many of our therapists treat geriatric issues including memory loss, chronic illness and the difficulties associated with aging. Appointments can be scheduled immediately right here on our website.