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."
This project was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the CCNA.
As next steps, this Brain Health Food Guide will be used in a CCNA clinical trial exploring the brain health benefits of diet changes. That trial will launch shortly.
About Baycrest Health Sciences
Headquartered on a 23-acre campus and fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest Health Sciences combines a unique holistic healthcare approach for aging adults with one of the world's top brain research institutes (the Rotman Research Institute). Baycrest is home to the federally and provincially-funded Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector, and the developer of a free online memory assessment, Cogniciti, for Canadians 40+ who are concerned about their memory. As a hospital with exemplary standing, practitioners and researchers at Baycrest work towards revolutionizing the aging experience. Baycrest is a recognized leader in offering unique hands-on opportunities to help train the next generation of healthcare professionals.
About Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment, and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.
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