Scientists develop first Canadian Brain Health Food Guide to help adults preserve thinking, memory skills

Baycrest scientists have led the development of the first Canadian Brain Health Food Guide to help adults over 50 preserve their thinking and memory skills as they age.

"There is increasing evidence in scientific literature that healthy eating is associated with retention of cognitive function, but there is also a lot of misinformation out there," says Dr. Carol Greenwood, co-author of the Brain Health Food Guide, senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Nutritional Sciences.

There is not a lot of evidence about individual foods, but rather classes of foods, says Dr. Greenwood, who is also a co-author of Mindfull, the first science-based cookbook for the brain. Older adults are encouraged to eat berries or cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, rather than a specific type of berry or vegetable.

The easy-to-read food guide, co-authored with Dr. Matthew Parrott, a former RRI post-doctoral fellow, in collaboration with nutritionists involved with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), provides the best advice based on current evidence.

Research has found that dietary patterns similar to those outlined in the Brain Health Food Guide are associated with decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 36 per cent and mild cognitive impairment (a condition likely to develop into Alzheimer's) by 27 per cent.

Some tips suggested by the Brain Health Food Guide include:

  • Focus on an overall pattern of healthy eating, not one specific "superfood" for brain health
  • Eat fish, beans and nuts several times a week
  • Include healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and fish in one's diet
  • Add beans or legumes to soups, stews and stir-fried foods
  • Embrace balance, moderation and variety

"The Brain Health Food Guide ties day-to-day diet advice with the best available research evidence on promoting brain health to older adults," says Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist and lead of the Memory and Aging Program at Baycrest, a brain health workshop for healthy older adults who are concerned about memory loss. "This guide is a perfect fit for our clients seeking to proactively manage their brain health through healthy nutrition."

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