Neurological diseases have become one of the main health problems in developed countries due to their prevalence, clinical relevance, and impact. Evidence shows that nutrition is a promising approach to preventing age-related neurodegeneration.
With an increasingly aging population, there is evidence that points to how nutrition offers a promising approach to preventing neurodegeneration caused by aging and dementia. A new study published in the journal Ageing Research Reviews addresses new ways to explore the role of nutrition in healthy aging: the impact of nutrients, dietary manipulation, and microbiota.
Alejandro Monzó – Neolife Nutrition and Nursing Unit
The brain experiences neural development up to about 30 years of age
Nutrients play a fundamental role in the development and functioning of the human nervous system. Nutritional epidemiology has suggested a protective role for healthy diets and various nutrients, which affect brain aging outcomes. Older people who have a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, like the Mediterranean diet, have larger brains than those with unhealthy diets (1, 2). The Mediterranean diet may be protective of cognitive impairment through various mechanisms (3):
- The intake of monounsaturated fatty acids would help preserve the cell membrane.
- The improvement of the metabolic pattern would lead to lower vascular deterioration,
- The intake of antioxidants would help decrease oxidative stress.
Therefore, the randomized clinical trial PREDIMED (PREvention with a MEDiterranean DIet) suggests that adherence to the Mediterranean diet decreases cardiovascular events including stroke, which directly and indirectly influences the development of dementia (3).
The bigger the size, the greater capacity
Additionally, it has been shown that people with bigger brains have better cognitive abilities, so any improvement in the quality of the diet may be a good strategy when it comes to maintaining elderly people’s cognitive abilities. There is evidence that shows that some nutrients or food ingredients, in particular vitamins and specific minerals, flavonoids, and omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to cognitive function (Figure 1) (3, 4).
The importance of Omega3
In recent years, the role of omega-3 fatty acids has been studied in the development of cognitive decline and several mechanisms through which the risk of dementia may be diminished have been put forth. These polyunsaturated fatty acids exert their protective nature through their antithrombotic, vasodilator, anti-inflammatory, antiarrhythmic effects, and above all their effects on lipid metabolism. Since a direct link between cardiovascular disease and the onset of dementia, both Alzheimer’s and vascular, has been described, the reduction of cardiovascular risk may decrease the risk of dementia. These fatty acids, together with phospholipids, are part of cell membranes and may contribute to maintaining their integrity in neurons and their expression (2,3,4).
It is worth mentioning a paper published in the scientific journal Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, that shows that obesity may aggravate the effects of Alzheimer’s. This study revealed that obesity may contribute to the vulnerability of neural tissue, while maintaining a healthy weight in cases of mild dementia may help preserve brain structure (5). Therefore, overweight and obesity are additional burdens on brain health and may aggravate the disease,
Once again, the microbiota
Another new avenue of research regarding age is the study of human gut microbiome. This is the totality of the microorganisms that make up the gut microbiota, predominantly bacteria but also including fungi, viruses, and other organisms. The gut microbiome undergoes significant changes throughout life, presenting distinctive characteristics at different stages in life. The use of prebiotics and probiotics is presented as an interesting tool to address the microbiome-gut-brain axis and as an intervention to aid in the treatment of mental disorders. Prebiotics include dietary fibers that facilitate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and it has been suggested that they influence neurobiology, achieving good results in improving patients’ cognitive flexibility. However, the mechanisms through which the microbiota may influence brain function appear to be complex and multidirectional, and involve neural, endocrine, and immune pathways (4).
At Neolife, we develop a comprehensive health program, which includes the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. And we have seen that nutrition plays an important role in both the cause of neurological disease and the treatment of many neurological processes. Therefore, an individualized dietary-nutritional plan is one of the keys in the prevention of disease in our patients, which also allows us to avoid premature brain aging and develop a state of optimal health.
(1) Otero. “La dieta mediterránea Evita que el cerebro se encoja con el envejecimiento”. Diario ABC. URL: https://www.abc.es/salud/habitos-vida-saludable/abci-dieta-mediterranea-evita-cerebro-encoja-envejecimiento-201805171223_noticia.html
(2) Redondo S., M.R. & González R., L.G. (2015). “Nutriguía: manual de nutrición clínica”. 2ªEdición. Editorial Médica Panamericana.
(3) De Luis Román, D.A. Bellido Guerrero, D. García Luna, P.P. Olivera Fuster, G. (2017). “Dietoterapia, nutrición clínica y metabolismo”. Tercera edición. Sociedad Española de Endocrinología y Nutrición. Grupo Aula Médica, S.L. Madrid, España.
(4) Flanagan E. y otros. (2020). “Nutrition and the ageing brain: moving towards clinical applications”. Ageing Res Rev. Vol. 62 URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32461136/
(5) Dake, M.D. y otros. (2021). “Obesity and brain vulnerability in normal and abnormal aging: a multimodal MRI Study”. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports. Vol. 5, nº1, pp: 65-77. URL: https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease-reports/adr200267