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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Leveraging Nutrition to Maintain Physical and Cognitive Health as We Age

By Michael McBurney

With 12% of the world population over 60y of age and the United Nations estimating that the total number will double from 841 million in 2013 to >2 billion in 2050, maintaining health is important. New research finds undernutrition may be associated with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. In other words, our dietary choices today can affect the aging process (positively or negatively).

Based on a cross-sectional, multicenter, population-based study in 2,002 subjects 65y and older living in 2 African countries (Central African Republic and Republic of Congo), mild cognitive impairment and dementia were associated with markers of malnutrition. The prevalence of mild cognitive impairment was 6-7%. The markers of undernutrition (mid-arm circumference) are not specific but sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) has been associated with cognitive impairment in healthy men and with weight loss in data obtained from 16,538 older adults living in 8 countries.

Just like protein intake and exercise help maintain muscle, hydration and omega-3 fatty acid intake help maintain brain. Why? The brain is primarily composed of lipids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Consuming more essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA,  increases circulating concentrations which helps support brain structure and function. Higher omega-3 intakes, reflected in blood DHA concentrations, are positively associated with brain volume.

Look after your body, including your brain. Eat nutritionally. Keep hydrated. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly, mentally and physically. Maintain a healthy body weight. Each of these is an important part of ageing gracefully.

Main Citation

Pilleron S, Jesus P, Desport J-C, Mbelesso P, Ndamba-Bandzouzi B, Clement J-P, Dartigues J-F, Preux P-M, Guerchet M, and the EPIDEMCA group. Association between mild cognitive impairment and dementia and undernutrition among elderly people in Central Africa: some results from EPIDEMCA (Epidemiology of Dementia in Central Africa) programme. 2015 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001749

Other Citations

Hsu Y-H, Liang C-K, Chou M-Y, Liao M-C, Lin Y-T, Chen L-K, Lo Y-K. Association of cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms and sarcopenia among healthy older men in the veterans retirement community in southern Taiwan: A cross-sectional study. 2014 Geriatr Gerontol doi: 10.1111/ggi.12221

Albanese E, Taylor C, Siervo M, Stewart R, Prince MJ, Acosta D. Dementia serverity and weight loss: A comparison across eight cohorts. The 10/66 study. 2013 Alzh Dement doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2012.11.014

MacIntosh BA, Ramsden CE, Faurot KR, Zamora D, Mangan M, Hibbeln JR. Mann JD. Low-n-6 and low-n-6 plus high-n-3 diets for use in clinical research. 2013 Br J Nutr doi:10.1017/S0007114512005181

Zamroziewicz MK, Paul EJ, Rubin RD, Barbey AK. Anterior cingulate cortex mediates the relationship between O3PUFAs and executive functions in APOE e4 carriers. 2015 Front Aging Neurosci doi:10.3889/10.3389/fnagi.2015.00087