Fats found in fish, nuts and olive oil can helppreserve your memory and problem-solving abilities as you age, according to new research.
Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids found in these food groups protect the areas of the brain that are most affected by ageing, two new studies have found.
The fatty acidshelp to preserve the frontoparietal cortex – a brain networkresponsible for problem solving, the research adds.
These same fats may also aid maintenance of the fornix, which is a small brain region that has previously been linked to memory and Alzheimer’s disease, the study revealed.
Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, affects 5.4 million people in the US and 850,000 in the UK.
Fats found in fish can help you preserve your memory and problem-solving abilities as you age
Getting lost may be an early sign that you could suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in later life, according to research published earlier this month.
The Prevent project, based at Edinburgh University, aims to understand early biological and clinical markers to identify risks in young people and help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The study, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, suggests that poor navigational skills could be linked to the disease.
‘Alzheimer’s is considered to be a disease of memory but we now think from our early work that the difficulty people are really having – at least to begin with – is not to do with declining memories but to do with their declining ability to visualise the location of objects or themselves,’ said Karen Ritchie, one of the researchers, according to The Guardian.
In both studies, researchers from the University of Illinois analysed levels of a type of fat, known as polyunsaturated fat, in the blood of adults aged 65 to 75.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in salmon, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
The researchers asked the participants to take part in a number of cognitive tests and analyzed structures in their brains using scans.
They found that those with high levels of polyunsaturated fats in their blood did better in problem-solving tasks.
Such participants also tended to have larger left frontoparietal cortices – the brain region associated with problem solving.
Study author Marta Zamroziewicz, said: ‘We studied a primary network of the brain – the frontoparietal network – that plays an important role in fluid intelligence and also declines early, even in healthy ageing.
Fluid intelligence describes the ability to solve problems that have not been encountered before.
Ms Zamroziewicz added: ‘In a separate study, we examined the white matter structure of the fornix, a group of nerve fibers at the center of the brain that is important for memory.’.
Previous research has shown that the fornix is one of the firstregions of the brain to be compromised in Alzheimer’s disease, she said.
Almonds are also a source of omega-3, which plays a role in staving off Alzheimer’s disease
In the second study, the same researchers found that the size of the fornix was associated with high levels of polyunsaturated fats in the blood.
Elderly study participants with a large fornix performed better in memory tests, results also revealed.
Ms Zamroziewicz said: ‘A lot of research tells us that people need to be eating fish and to get neuroprotective effects from these particular fats, but this new finding suggests that even the fats that we get from nuts, seeds and oils can also make a difference in the brain.
‘These findings have important implications for the Western diet, which tends to be misbalanced with high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and low amounts of omega-3.’
Omega 3 fatty acids are present in high quantities in walnuts, olive oil and salmon, while palm, soy and sunflower oils contain omega 6.
This comes after researchers from the Medical Research Council’s Toxicology Unit in Leicester, along with Cambridge University, found that a drug formerly used for depression could be a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Trazodone was shown to reduce brain shrinkage in early tests – and as it has already been proven safe for humans, it could be on the market in two years, they said.