July 20, 2024

Uncovering the Power of Specific Nutrients in Supporting Healthy Brain Aging: A Groundbreaking Study

Scientists at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have recently published a study in npj Aging, shedding light on the potential role of specific nutrients in promoting healthy brain aging.

The research team, led by Aron Barbey, director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, along with Jisheng Wu, a doctoral student at Nebraska, and Christopher Zwilling, research scientist at UIUC, conducted a multimodal study, merging advanced Neuroscience and nutritional science techniques. Their findings suggest that a unique nutrient profile is linked to better cognitive performance in older adults.

The study involved 100 cognitively healthy participants, aged between 65 and 75. Participants completed a questionnaire providing demographic information, body measurements, and physical activity data. Blood plasma samples were collected following a fasting period to analyze nutrient biomarkers. Additionally, participants underwent cognitive assessments and MRI scans.

The researchers identified two distinct types of brain aging among the participants—accelerated and slower-than-expected. Those with slower brain aging showed a specific nutrient profile.

The beneficial nutrient biomarkers included a combination of fatty acids (vaccenic, gondoic, alpha linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, eicosadienoic, and lignoceric acids); antioxidants and carotenoids such as cis-lutein, trans-lutein, and zeaxanthin; two forms of vitamin E; and choline. This nutrient profile correlates with those found in the Mediterranean diet, which has previously been linked to healthy brain aging.

Barbey, Mildred Francis Thompson Professor of Psychology, commented, “We focused on specific nutrient biomarkers, like fatty acid profiles, which have been shown in nutritional science to potentially offer health benefits. This aligns with the extensive body of research demonstrating the positive health effects of the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes foods rich in these beneficial nutrients.”

The present study reveals promising nutrient biomarker patterns with favorable associations with cognitive performance and brain health measures. Previous research on nutrition and brain aging has primarily relied on food frequency questionnaires, which depend on participants’ own recall. This study is among the first and largest to combine brain imaging, blood biomarkers, and validated cognitive assessments.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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