Keeping the heart healthy benefits the brain

Those who have concerns over the health of their heart may avoid foods containing saturated fats or make exercise a regular part of their day. Now, it turns out that taking these steps has the potential to benefit these individuals’ brains as well.
Some fats are good for the brain

In a recent study, the results of which appear in the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society journal “Annals of Neurology,” researchers linked the consumption of saturated fat to poor cognitive function. At the same time, monounsaturated fat was tied to improved cognitive function and memory.

Saturated fat can be found in food products like butter, cheese and chocolate, while mono-unsaturated fat exists in olive oil and avocados.

To see what impact different types of fat have on people’s brains, the researchers looked at data from the Women’s Health Study – specifically, a subset of 6,000 women over the age of 65. Every two years, these participants took three cognitive function tests and provided detailed information on their eating habits.


The researchers found that women who consumed more saturated fat had worse cognition and memory than those who had less of this fat in their diet. Those who tended to eat foods with more monounsaturated fats received better cognitive scores.

“Our findings have significant public health implications,” said Olivia Okereke of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory.”

For children, eating right can mean higher IQs

For adults, too much pizza and potato chips is never good for the heart. However, it appears that a diet consisting of these items has the potential to prevent cognitive development in children under the age of 3, according to The Daily Mail. When compared to kids who are fed more fruits, vegetables and home-cooked meals, there could be a difference of as much as five IQ points.

What is perhaps most troubling is the fact that even if children begin to eat healthier over time, it may be too late to reverse the damage their diet has caused.

These results come from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which tracks the long-term health of kids who were born in the early 1990s. According to the researchers’ findings, youths who consumed more fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and home-cooked meals also tended to have better IQ scores.

The news source also reported that 20 percent of 3-year-olds whose diet consisted of fats, sugar and processed food had IQs that were five points lower than children with healthier eating habits when they were tested at 8 years old.

“The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years and good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth,” said researcher Pauline Emmett, as quoted by the news outlet. “By the age of 3, brain development is slowing down, which is perhaps why the diet doesn’t have much effect afterwards.”

Exercise and genes play a role in IQ

Going for a run can keep the heart healthy, but physical exercise may also benefit one’s learning abilities, as long as you have the right genes.

New research from Dartmouth College professor David Bucci reveals that a specific gene shows how effective exercise can be on the brain. The degree of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor that an individual possesses signals how well they will reap the mental rewards of exercise.

Whether individuals have been eating right from a young age or exercise daily, taking an IQ test may help them see what impact their behavior has had on their cognitive abilities.


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Filed under Babyboomers, Conditions & Diseases, Heath & Wellness

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