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New Study Reveals Key Nutrients You Need to Slow Brain Aging

Consuming certain nutrient-rich foods could help you live a longer and healthier life.

Sure, a lot of it comes down to genes and pure luck, but there are plenty of things you can to help yourself live longer. Studies have shown that everything from modifying your sleep habits to changing up your walking pace can have a real impact on extending your years. But slowing brain aging is another important aspect of longevity, and now new research has pinpointed the key food nutrients you need to do just that.

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A May 21 study published in the NPJ Aging journal aimed to uncover the nutrients that promote healthy brain aging.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gathered 100 "cognitively health participants" between the ages of 65 and 75 to conduct cognitive assessments and MRI scans, as well as collect their blood plasma following a fasting period to analyze their nutrient biomarkers.

Researchers were able to identify two types of brain aging among the participants—one which showed an accelerated rate of aging, and the other that reflected slower-than-expected aging.

The participants who were able to slow their brain aging were found to have higher concentrations of certain nutrients, such as specific fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins.

"Study participants with this nutrient profile demonstrated better cognitive scores and delayed brain aging," the researchers stated in their study.

RELATED: "Super-Agers" Who Remember Everything at 80 Have These Things in Common, Research Says.

As explained in a press release accompanying the study, these nutrients can be commonly found within the Mediterranean diet—which has already been linked to longevity.

"We investigated specific nutrient biomarkers, such as fatty acid profiles, known in nutritional science to potentially offer health benefits. This aligns with the extensive body of research in the field demonstrating the positive health effects of the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes foods rich in these beneficial nutrients," co-study lead Aron Barbey, a neuroscientist and director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, said in a statement.

The Mediterranean diet typically centers around "plenty of fruits, vegetables, bread and other grains, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds; olive oil as a primary fat source; and dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry in low to moderate amounts," according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

People who follow this diet tend to each fish and poultry more than red meat, while mainly focusing on minimally processed, plant-based foods.

The nutrients that are gained from eating the Mediterranean Diet "have known functional relationships with the brain," according to the new study. For example, researchers noted that fatty acids "are necessary for structural brain integrity and development," while antioxidants "are known to reduce oxidative stress," which can benefit brain health and may also have "favorable effects on episodic memory."

RELATED: 10 Healthiest Superfoods to Add to Your Diet, Nutritionists Say.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that people can increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. Meanwhile, "plant-based foods are the best source of antioxidants," according to the Mayo Clinic.

The researchers also highlighted two specific vitamins—vitamin E and choline—found in participants within the group with brains aging slower than expected. These vitamins are "important nutrients that promote cognitive and brain health," researchers said.

"Multiple studies have shown that high concentrations of Vitamin E in plasma are associated with better cognitive performance in healthy populations, aging populations, and Alzheimer disease patients," they stated in the study. "Choline, an essential B-vitamin-like nutrient, benefits both executive function and memory."

According to Harvard's School of Public Health, foods high in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, pumpkin, asparagus, mangoes, and avocados. The richest sources of choline include fish, potatoes, legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, and sunflower seeds.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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