DIETING’S SURPRISING SIDE EFFECT
By Claire Kowalchik
Want to stay slim and smart well into your later years? You know that dieting will help you get to and maintain a healthy weight but research suggests that weight management may also reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association points to a study of 1,500 adults showing that those who were obese during middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in their later years, and the risk was six times higher among those who were both overweight and had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
In addition, a recent study by neuroscientists at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, working with female mice (who, like female humans, have a greater incidence of dementia), found that cutting calories from their diets resulted in fewer changes to approximately 900 genes associated with memory and aging of the brain, meaning that lower calorie consumption would slow mental decline that can come with aging. More research is needed to determine if cutting calories can slow brain aging in humans but scientists are optimistic.
Experts are also excited by studies that link certain foods to brain health, though it’s unclear what quantities of these brain foods are needed for optimal health.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers these general recommendations:
1. Cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol, which clog the arteries.
2. Consume more monounsaturated fats (from olive and canola oils and nuts), which may raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol and in turn keep brain cells healthy.
3. Eat more dark-colored fruits and vegetables. These have the highest concentrations of antioxidants, which help reduce your risk of several diseases including Alzheimer’s.
4. Serve up fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and halibut. Research shows over and over again that fish are indeed “brain food.”
5. Snack on almonds, walnuts, and pecans, which are good sources of vitamin E—an antioxidant that may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.
And let’s not forget the role of regular exercise in boosting brain health. Physical activity promotes good blood flow to the brain and stimulates the growth of new brain cells. As Pam Peeke, MD, chair of the Curves Jenny Science Advisory Board is famous for saying, “Exercise builds a bigger brain.”
Stay committed to your healthy lifestyle goals and you can look forward to a trim, healthy body, a vibrant mind, and golden years that will shine brilliant.