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Healthy food protects brain health in midlife

health-and-fitness Updated: Mar 14, 2014 16:54 IST

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Eating correctly in midlife may prevent dementia later on, according to a new thesis published by the University of Eastern Finland. Results indicated that those who consumed healthy foods at the average age of 50 had a nearly 90 per cent lower risk of dementia in a 14-year follow-up study compared to those who did not eat healthfully.

Researchers used a healthy diet index based on eating a variety of foods. The “healthy” foods included vegetables, berries/fruits, fish and unsaturated fats from milk products and spreads. The “unhealthy” foods included sausages, eggs, salty fish, sugary drinks, desserts/candy and saturated fats from milk products and spreads.

Eating a large amount of saturated fats was linked to decreased cognitive function and increased dementia risk. Those who eat a diet high in saturated fats and carry the epsilon 4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene are also at risk. This gene is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

"Even those who are genetically susceptible can at least delay its onset by favouring vegetable oils, oil-based spreads and fatty fish in their diet," says thesis author Margo Eskelinen, MSc. The thesis was based on the population-based Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) study.