Canadian Scientists Create Food Guide for Brain Health in Older Adults

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17 Mar 2017 --- Scientists at Baycrest, home to the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, have led the development of the first Canadian Brain Health Food Guide to help adults over 50 preserve their thinking and memory skills as they age. 

Nutrition for elderly consumers has been a hot topic over recent years, as the world population continues to live longer, presenting new health care challenges, especially when it comes to cognitive health.

“There is increasing evidence in scientific literature that healthy eating is associated with retention of cognitive function, but there is also a lot of misinformation out there," says Dr. Carol Greenwood, co-author of the Brain Health Food Guide, senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Nutritional Sciences.

“There is not a lot of evidence about individual foods, but rather classes of foods,” says Dr. Greenwood, who is also a co-author of Mindfull, the first science-based cookbook for the brain.

Speaking with previously with NutritionInsight, James Komorowski, Vice President, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at Nutrition 21, a company specializing in brain health and cognitive performance, explained the importance of nutrition and the brain, and who the Nitrosigine audience is.

“Good nutrition is key to proper brain health and function,” Komorowski said.

“The brain uses a lot of energy to continuously function at a very high energy level and therefore needs continuous access to key nutrients. This is important not only for today, but also important in years to come.”

The Brain Health Food Guide from Baycrest encourages older adults to eat berries or cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, rather than a specific type of berry or vegetable.

The easy-to-read food guide, co-authored with Dr. Matthew Parrott, a former RRI post-doctoral fellow, in collaboration with nutritionists involved with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), provides the best advice based on current evidence.

Research has found that dietary patterns similar to those outlined in the Brain Health Food Guide are associated with decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 36 per cent and mild cognitive impairment (a condition likely to develop into Alzheimer's) by 27 per cent.

Some tips suggested by the Brain Health Food Guide include that consumers focus on an overall pattern of healthy eating, not one specific "superfood" for brain health.

It also suggests that older consumers eat fish, beans and nuts several times a week as well as healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and fish. Adding beans or legumes to soups, stews and stir-fried foods is also advised.

“The Brain Health Food Guide ties day-to-day diet advice with the best available research evidence on promoting brain health to older adults," says Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist and lead of the Memory and Aging Program at Baycrest, a brain health workshop for healthy older adults who are concerned about memory loss.

“This guide is a perfect fit for our clients seeking to proactively manage their brain health through healthy nutrition.”

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