Men: Here’s How to Make Sure You Remember Her Birthday3 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If we are lucky enough to grow old, we will experience some form of physical and mental decline. For example, we may not be able to move around as quickly as we did before. We may even forget things we used to remember.
The good news is that if we are proactive about our health, we may be able to slow this decline in physical and mental health. For example, following a healthy lifestyle may not only delay the decline associated with aging, but it may also help prevent the development of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's (one of the most well-known forms of cognitive impairment).
“Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to severe. With mild impairment, people may begin to notice changes in cognitive functions, but still be able to do their everyday activities. Severe levels of impairment can lead to losing the ability to understand the meaning or importance of something and the ability to talk or write, resulting in the inability to live independently,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment. Furthermore, a new estimate says that 46 million Americans may be on the road to developing Alzheimer's.
In addition to this, a 2012 study published by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), found evidence that men are at a higher risk of memory loss than women. And memory loss can be a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia.
“Men may be at higher risk of experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or the stage of mild memory loss that occurs between normal aging and dementia, than women,” according to a report about the study.
And now, a new study that took place over a 20-year period involving men and tracking foods they ate revealed that certain dietary choices may have a significant impact on whether they suffer from memory loss and other forms of cognitive impairment.
In addition to questioning the participants about diet, participants also took subjective tests pertaining to their thinking and memory skills at least four years before the end of the study. (at this time the average age of the men was 73).
The study examined 27,842 men (average age was 51 at the beginning of the study). Interestingly, all the men involved were health professionals such as dentists, optometrists and veterinarians. The researchers chose men in these professions because they were likely to have high cognitive function at the start of the study.
At the beginning of the study, the men completed questionnaires about how many servings of fruits, vegetables and other foods they had each day. They then completed the same questionnaire every four years for 20 years.
This report on the study says a serving of fruit was considered to be one cup of fruit or half a cup of fruit juice, and a serving of vegetables was considered to be one cup of raw vegetables or two cups of leafy greens.
“The test is designed to detect changes that people can notice in how well they are remembering things before those changes would be detected by objective cognitive tests. Changes in memory reported by the participants would be considered precursors to mild cognitive impairment.”
Results revealed that 55 percent of the participants had good thinking and memory skills, 38 percent had moderate skills and 7 percent had poor thinking and memory skills. All the participants were then divided into groups based on their consumption of fruits and vegetables. These groups included:
- High vegetable (about six servings per day)
- Low vegetable (two servings)
- High fruit (about three servings per day)
- Low fruit (half a serving)
So keep in mind, someone could be categorized in more than one of these groups. For example, you could be both high fruit and high vegetable or low fruit and high vegetable.
- Men who ate the most vegetables were 34 percent less likely to develop poor thinking skills compared to the men who consumed the least amount of vegetables.
- In the high vegetable group, 6.6 percent of men developed poor cognitive function compared to 7.9 percent of men in the low vegetable group.
- Men who drank orange juice every day were 47 percent less likely to develop poor thinking skills compared to the men who drank less than one serving per month (this was mainly seen in the oldest men of the participants).
- A total of 6.9 percent of men who drank orange juice every day developed poor cognitive function, 8.4 percent of men who drank orange juice less than once a month developed poor cognitive function.
- Men who ate a lot of fruit were also less likely to develop poor thinking skills, “but that association was weakened after researchers adjusted for other dietary factors that could affect the results, such as consumption of vegetables, fruit juice, refined grains, legumes and dairy products.”
But perhaps the biggest takeaway was that, “The researchers also found that people who ate larger amounts of fruits and vegetables 20 years earlier were less likely to develop thinking and memory problems, whether or not they kept eating larger amounts of fruits and vegetables about six years before the memory test.”
So it appears that the earlier you adopt healthy eating habits, the more power you will have in preserving the health of your brain. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense. They are rich in nutrients we need, such as vitamins and minerals. And some nutrients, like the mineral magnesium, may aid in cognitive function.
Some other nutrients that may help with brain health include:
- Selenium. This mineral is an antioxidant. And antioxidants help prevent inflammation, one of the believed root causes of cognitive decline and other types of disease. In rats, one study showed that treatment with selenium prevented some of the negative effects of aluminum chloride poisoning, which results in rat Alzheimer’s disease.
- Chromium. Alzheimer’s is often called ‘type 3 diabetes,’ because it seems closely linked to mis-regulated blood sugar. Since the mineral chromium helps regulate blood sugar, it’s no surprise that chromium supplements help improve test scores in these patients and cause the brain to light up more on a functional MRI, a type of MRI that demonstrates where brain activity is actually happening.
- Copper. This is another mineral implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. What exactly happens with copper in the body is still a bit confusing to researchers. While copper supplementation seems to prevent early death in Alzheimer’s rats and seems to decrease levels of the culprit beta-amyloid protein that ends up invading the brain in this disease, the answer isn’t as simple as just giving everyone more copper. The current thought is that copper needs to be delicately balanced in the body, like sodium and potassium.
Male or female, being nutritionally balanced will help keep you healthy as you age both mentally and physically. And this is why I always stress taking routine nutrient tests. If you discover you are not nutritionally balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on adjusting your diet and possibly recommend quality supplements you can take.
You can read more about minerals that may help with brain health in Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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