Monounsaturated fatty acids linked to benefits for brain network organization

636764041592548108brainscan.jpg

29 Oct 2018 --- A new study by University of Illinois researchers has found that monounsaturated fatty acids – a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados – are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain's attention network. Although nutrition has been linked to cognitive performance, the mechanism behind the connection has remained elusive.

Published in the journal NeuroImage, the study of 99 healthy older adults, recruited through Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, compared patterns of fatty acid nutrients found in blood samples, functional MRI data that measured the efficiency of brain networks and the results of a general intelligence test. 

“Our goal is to understand how nutrition might be used to support cognitive performance and to study the ways in which nutrition may influence the functional organization of the human brain,” says study leader Aron Barbey, a Professor of Psychology. 

Click to Enlarge
Image credit: Julie McMahon.

This understanding is important for the development of nutritional interventions that are effective at enhancing cognitive performance, Barbey adds.

“In this study, we examined the relationship between groups of fatty acids and brain networks that underlie general intelligence. In doing so, we sought to understand if brain network organization mediated the relationship between fatty acids and general intelligence,” says Marta Zamroziewicz, a Ph.D. graduate of the neuroscience program at Illinois and lead author of the study.

Studies suggesting cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in MUFAs, inspired the researchers to focus on this group of fatty acids. They examined nutrients in participants' blood and found that the fatty acids clustered into two patterns: saturated fatty acids and MUFAs.

“Historically, the approach has been to focus on individual nutrients. But we know that dietary intake doesn't depend on any one specific nutrient; rather, it reflects broader dietary patterns,” says Barbey, who also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.

The researchers found that general intelligence was associated with the brain's dorsal attention network, which plays a central role in attention-demanding tasks and everyday problem solving. In particular, the researchers found that general intelligence was associated with how efficiently the dorsal attention network is functionally organized used a measure called small-world propensity, which describes how well the neural network is connected within locally clustered regions as well as across globally integrated systems.

In turn, they found that those with higher levels of MUFAs in their blood had greater small-world propensity in their dorsal attention network. Taken together with an observed correlation between higher levels of MUFAs and greater general intelligence, these findings suggest a pathway by which MUFAs affect cognition.

“Our findings provide novel evidence that MUFAs are related to a very specific brain network, the dorsal attentional network, and how optimal this network is functionally organized,” Barbey says. “Our results suggest that if we want to understand the relationship between MUFAs and general intelligence, we need to take the dorsal attention network into account. It's part of the underlying mechanism that contributes to their relationship.”

The researchers hope these findings will guide further research into how nutrition affects cognition and intelligence. In particular, the next step is to run an interventional study over time to see whether long-term MUFA intake influences brain network organization and intelligence.

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

Related Articles

Health & Nutrition News

Fasting may improve health and shield against age-related diseases, study finds

17 Jan 2019 --- Fasting intermittently (IF) may reprogram a variety of cellular responses and result in a range of health benefits, according to a US study conducted on mice. Fasting was found to affect circadian clocks in the liver and skeletal muscles, causing them to rewire their metabolism, which may promote health and protect from age-related diseases. The research, published in Cell Reports, opens new pathways of investigation that may lead to the development of nutritional strategies to improve health in humans.

Health & Nutrition News

Low GI options: Holista CollTech and Kawan Food join forces to produce healthier Indian flatbreads

17 Jan 2019 --- Holista CollTech Ltd and Kawan Food Bhd, an exporter of frozen Asian food products, have partnered to produce healthier alternatives to traditional Indian flatbreads, such as roti canai, roti and chapati. The companies hope to tackle Malaysia’s growing obesity problem by offering healthier options to the nation’s staple foods.

Packaging & Technology News

First time for Europe: Spanish supermarket chain launches Nutri-score labeling

16 Jan 2019 --- Spanish supermarket chain Eroski has introduced a handful of own-brand products featuring Nutri-Score labeling. This makes Eroski the first distribution company in Spain to incorporate this “advanced nutrition” labeling. The Nutri-Score system classifies foods into five levels, indicated by colored letters – from “A” in dark green to “E” in dark orange. It is calculated on the basis of the calories, the nutrients which are beneficial for our health – fiber, protein, amount of fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses – and nutrients whose intake should be reduced – saturated fat, salt and sugar – per 100 grams of the product.

Health & Nutrition News

Microbiome holds potential for treating milk allergy, mice study finds

16 Jan 2019 --- Gut microbes from healthy infant donors transplanted into mice prevented allergic reactions to milk, while gut microbes from infant donors with milk allergies failed to do the same, according to a Chicago University study. Supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in Nature Medicine, the study findings suggest that gut microbes can significantly affect allergic responses to foods.

Health & Nutrition News

Fast-tracking growth: Mérieux Equity Partners acquires majority stake of Nutragroup

16 Jan 2019 --- Mérieux Equity Partners has acquired a majority stake in Nutragroup, the holding company of Omnipharm and B-Pharma labs. The acquisition was possible through the company’s third generation fund, Mérieux Participations 3, which is dedicated to fast-growing companies in the health and nutrition sectors. Nutragroup founder Mehdi Boulahia is to maintain a significant equity interest in the business.

More Articles
URL : http://www.nutritioninsight.com:80/news/monounsaturated-fatty-acids-linked-to-benefits-for-brain-network-organization.html