A healthy diet is essential throughout life and new research looks specifically at boosting the brain in old age.
Elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins - B, C, D, E - and omega 3 fatty acids in their blood had better performance on mental acuity tests and less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer's disease – while "junk food" diets produced just the opposite result.
That’s according to research by scientists from the Oregon Health and Science University in the US and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, published in Neurology.
Their results are based on 104 people, at an average age of 87, with no special risk factors for memory or mental acuity. It tested 30 different nutrient biomarkers in their blood, and 42 participants also had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.
The best results and brain size measurements were associated with two dietary patterns – high levels of marine fatty acids, and high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E.
"The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers," said Maret Traber, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and co-author on the study. "I'm a firm believer these nutrients have strong potential to protect your brain and make it work better."