As you may remember from our article about anxiety and memory, the way our brains store information has thousands of external influences. From how much sleep we are getting to the foods we eat, our memories are supported by healthy habits every day. Research suggests that what we eat has a direct influence on our ability to create and maintain memories as well as the onset of dementia.
Memory and Diet
To understand the connection between how diet influences memory, let’s look at an example;
You are eating a steak for dinner. You butter a few rolls and douse your mashed potatoes in gravy.
In those foods are different kinds of nutrients from protein to fat and hopefully, lots of flavor. You may not think about your meals more than that — and let’s be honest, most people only care about the flavor. However, many foods, including that steak dinner, work together to keep your body and mind working properly. This puts a lot of importance on the food choices we make every day because they can put us in fit condition or higher risk for developing health problems.
Which brings us to diet, memory, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDLs are a type of cholesterol and can raise your blood pressure by causing plaque buildup in your bloodstream. Since nutrition is a relatively new science — about 80 years old, which is quite young for a science — biologists and dietitians don’t fully understand how or why our bodies process certain foods in certain ways. But one thing scientists do know is that diets high in saturated fats are attributed to memory loss and the first stages of dementia later in life. According to one Harvard Health publication;
“Of 6,000 women published in Annals of Neurology found that those who ate the most saturated fat had the worst memory and thinking ability over time. Total fat consumed did not affect brain function, but the type of fat did. Those who ate the most saturated fats from foods such as red meat and butter performed the worst on cognitive tests. Those who ate the most monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and nuts, did the best.”
Ok, great! Case closed, stay away from saturated fats and you’re good to go. Except of course it’s not that simple. Genetics play a huge role in how your body processes nutrients.
Your Genes Affect Your Diet and Memory
One of the genes responsible for processing saturated and trans fats is called the apolipoprotein E, or APOE. It allows proteins to bond with fat so they can travel through your body safely. Basically, APOE allows your body to safely process fats.
A mutation of this gene, called APOE e4, might be responsible for some people processing fats incorrectly. This mutation doesn’t bond well with saturated and trans fats, meaning they are traveling inefficiently. This process causes physical complications. Scientists believe that this gene might put some people at higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s due to the build-up of plaque in the brain. This build-up can cause the destruction of brain cells associated with age-related mental decline.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Memory Healthy?
Well, you have a few options if you are worried about your memory as you age. You can get an evaluation of your genotype which will indicate whether or not you have the APOE e4 gene. Secondly, you can improve your diet to keep your mind healthy. Here are some nutrients that can help improve mental function:
- Keep cholesterol and blood pressure low
- Quit or cut down on nicotine and tobacco
- Monitor your weight to lower diet/weight risk factors
Foods To Help Memory
Worried about your diet? Try incorporating these foods regularly to keep your mind sharp
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole-grain bread and cereal
- Beans and nuts
- Olive oil
- Very limited red meat
- No more than four eggs per week
- Moderate wine consumption (one glass a day for women)
Want to learn more scientific tips and tricks about aging well? Here is your FREE A-Z guide on Living and Aging the Way You Want. Click the icon and get your copy today!
Twin Towers is a continuing care retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, offering patio homes, apartments, rehab services and more. We’re focused on supporting the vibrant and active lifestyles of our residents so they can age well. For more information, contact Twin Towers online or at 513-853-2000.
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