Many people start adopting healthier eating habits in order to slim down, but we rarely hear about people eating healthier to boost their brain power.
Now researchers are saying that maybe we should consider adopting a healthier diet not just for the physical benefits, but for the mental ones as well.
According to a recent study in the journal Neurology, adhering to a healthy diet can not only improve your cognitive powers, but lower your risk for developing dementia and other memory problems as they age(1).
Bad For Your Body, Bad For Your Brain
It’s no secret that a poor diet can have a negative impact on your brain, just as it can have on other organs like your heart. According to Harvard Medical School, a diet high in sugars and fats can raise your levels of LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol, which can damage your arteries over an extended period of time(2).
The same process that leads to the destruction of your arteries can lead to the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain – something which is considered an early warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease.
A Comprehensive Approach
The study monitored the eating habits of 27,860 men and women from 40 different countries, grading the food they consumed as either healthy or unhealthy. At the same time, researchers tested the memory and thinking skills of the participants, starting at the beginning of the study and then following up first two years, then five years later.
By the end of the study, over 4,500 men and women had experienced a decline in their cognitive skills and memory. Researchers then factored in physical activity, blood pressure, and cancer history to determine that those who adhered to the healthiest diets were 24 percent less likely to experience a decline in their cognitive abilities than those with the unhealthiest diets.
Part Of A Bigger Picture
“Adoption of a healthy diet probably begins early in life, and a healthy diet might also go along with adoption of other healthy behaviours,” said lead study author Dr. Andrew Smyth, in a recent statement(3).
Basically, diet is only part of a healthier lifestyle which ultimately benefits your brain.
Smyth told CNN that the goal of the study was to get as diverse a representation as possible.
“The difference in our study is we didn’t prescribe a particular diet or explore for a particular diet pattern,” he said(4).
“We just wanted to look at a diverse cohort of people all around the world and analyzed what their risk for cognitive decline would be if they consumed what most organizations would consider a ‘healthy diet’.”
Previous studies which have focused on specific dietary patterns seem to indicate that there is a link between the Mediterranean diet and a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease(5).