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June 30, 2014

High Carbs = Brain Drain

Based on a study completed by the Mayo Clinic, over four years with 1233 people aged between 70-89 years, a diet high in carbohydrates was seen as having an adverse affect on brain function.

Unfortunately, carbohydrate consumption may rise for elderly people. Money may be an issue, so they opt for cheaper, often carb laden foods. Seniors may settle for easy to prepare foods. Also dental problems and fading senses of smell and taste can make other foods less inviting.

Because a high carbohydrate diet seems to be associated with cognitive impairment, scientists looked at the percentage of protein, carbohydrates and fats consumed. During the study, 200 of the participants developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

The study findings suggested that those with the highest carbohydrate intake had the highest risk of developing cognitive impairment in the future, compared to those with the lowest intake.

Protein and fat are needed for healthy nerve cell membranes; fats are also needed for the myelin sheath that transmits impulses along these cells. But protein and fat intake may become proportionately lower as carbohydrate intake increases. This imbalance may also affect glucose and insulin metabolism.

It turns out that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain; exercise and consumption of a more Mediterranean-like diet, with complex carbohydrates (whole grains), fish, little red meat, lots of vegetables and fruits, nuts and unsaturated fatty acids.

Making an effort to maintain brain health is smart at any age!

(Note: from Zoomer Magazine: December 2013)