I Eat, Therefore I Think: The Role of Nutrition in Brain Health

Eating more healthfully offers myriad benefits. For example, eating healthier can lead to a stronger immune system, lower risk of disease, better sleep, and improved mood. Healthy fats, in particular, have gained attention for their health benefits, including reducing heart disease risk and lowering cholesterol. New research has taken this idea a step further to investigate the relationships between nutrition, cognition, and brain health. 

A recent study from researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign provides evidence that certain nutrients and cognitive measures are jointly associated with brain health in 111 older adults. The study aimed to explore relationships between nutrition (i.e., 52 nutrient biomarkers), cognitive functioning (i.e., memory and intelligence), and brain health (i.e., MRIs of brain structures). Their results revealed two distinct “profiles,” or groups, of older adults—one that was high in all three domains (i.e., nutrition, cognitive functioning, and brain health) and one that was low in the three domains. The largest differences between the groups were exhibited for three types of fatty acids (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats), memory performance, and volume in 10 different brain regions. In short, higher levels of these fatty acids were associated with better memory and a healthier brain.  

Nutritional choices can help people age better. What people eat as they age has important implications for brain health and memory, as well as other aspects of mental and physical health. Based on this study, it could benefit your brain to add more healthy fats (in moderation) to your diet. 


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Talukdar, T., Zwilling, C. E., & Barbey, A. K. (2023). Integrating Nutrient Biomarkers, Cognitive Function, and Structural MRI Data to Build Multivariate Phenotypes of Healthy Aging. The Journal of Nutrition. DOI: 10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.03.016 

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