In a highly informative and rigorous, new evaluation, scientists identified a small handful of nutrients that appear to be integral for optimal brain power. They began by selecting 32 nutrients common to the Mediterranean Diet
because of this diet’s strong association in past studies with less dementia risk. Then they measured levels of these nutrients in the blood of 116 healthy study subjects ages 65-75.
In addition, they performed advanced MRI scans of each study subject’s brain to assess the efficiency of communication both within and amongst critical brain regions. Each study subject also completed a battery of tests designed to measure cognitive capacity.
The results? Eight nutrients were uncovered that clearly stood out from the others as strongly tied to optimal cognitive performance and brain connectivity. They included:
- Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp seeds, and dark leafy greens
- Omega 6 fatty acids from various nuts and seeds
- Carotenoids – the orange/yellow pigments in carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash (lutein is a big one)
- B vitamins – found in a broad range of foods – whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seafood, etc.
- Lycopene – found in tomatoes/tomato products and watermelon
- Vitamin D – from the sun and oily fish
These results are in line with many other past studies and what we already know about the unique nutritional needs of the brain. ((NeuroImage, 2019; 188: 239 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.12.007