Feb 15, 2022 A Healthy Diet Is Good for Your Body – And Your Brain

plate of food

A healthy diet is known to have a positive impact on our bodies, but did you know it can also benefit your mind? Over the past few years, researchers and physicians have explored the connection between the foods we consume and our overall cognitive function, including memory.

A study presented at last year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference focused on the way sugar intake effects cognitive function over time. The study showed high sugar intake can negatively impact short- and long-term memory, with higher amounts potentially increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, a diet full of inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates, fried foods and red or processed meats, may be up to three times as likely to cause memory loss and problem-solving skills. Uncontrolled inflammation can cause damage throughout the body, and if it occurs in the brain, there is potential to develop dementia over time.

How Can You Improve Your Memory Through Diet?

If you know the risk factors, what steps can you take to improve cognitive function over time?

“Although the sample size of these studies remains relatively small, there is enough evidence to show a connection between the foods we eat and cognitive function as we age,” says Kyra Blatt, MD, neurologist at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. “A nutrient rich diet containing fruits, vegetables and lentils and lower amounts of sugar decreases the risk of memory loss and cognitive issues as you age.”

Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet, or one high in fish, olive oil, vegetables, fruits and nuts but low in meat and dairy products, may be linked to reduced risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies have also shown that flavonoids, or plant chemicals found in strawberries, oranges, peppers, blueberries and blackberries, may also help lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Flavonoids are strong antioxidants that can serve as a preventive element of memory loss, with one study showing people who had the best cognitive function over time ate at least one serving per day.

Another way to decrease your risk of memory loss is by taking a multivitamin. A study presented at a Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) conference showed taking a daily multivitamin for 3 years was associated with a 60% slowing of cognitive aging, particularly with patients with cardiovascular disease.

“Overall, a combination of factors including exercise, healthy diet and daily vitamins can play a role in maintaining cognitive function as you age,” says Dr. Blatt.

For more information, talk to you doctor. To make an appointment with an RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group physician, call 888-724-7123.

Other Resources:

  • Healio - High sugar intake may increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Medscape - Flavonoids Dietary 'Powerhouses' for Cognitive Decline Prevention
  • Medscape - Inflammatory Diet Linked to Increased All-Cause Dementia Risk
  • Medscape - Multivitamins, but Not Cocoa, Tied to Slowed Brain Aging