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Brain boosters

Published:Wednesday | April 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

 Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

Want to keep mentally sharp? Eat your fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

A new study found that eating right improves your odds of avoiding mental decline. Vitamins, omega-3s, and avoiding unhealthy fats such as trans fats were all linked to healthier brains in older adults.

The study was conducted by Gene Bowan and colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University and reported in Neurology and Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

That's even more important given the results of another study that found brain decline may start earlier than previously thought - as early as ages 45 to 49 for both men and women.

In this study of 5,198 men and 2,192 women participating in the long-running Whitehall II cohort study of British civil servants, data found that the brain may lose function in the mid-40s rather than only after age 60, as commonly thought. The study was reported in the British Medical Journal.

Vitamins B, C & D

In the Oregon study, people with higher scores on the blood vitamin profile of vitamins B1, B2, B6, folate, vitamin B12, C, D and E had more brain area. By contrast, those with high trans fat levels had significantly less brain area. Older adults with the highest blood omega-3 profiles had significantly less small vessel disease in the brain.

The bottom line is that diet can affect brain health as much as heart health. Foods high in the B vitamins and folate include whole grains. Foods high in vitamin B12 include red meat, and foods high in vitamin C are fruits and vegetables. Foods high in vitamin E are the omega-3s in fatty fish such as salmon. Foods high in vitamin D are fortified milk and the sun.

Food cost and losing weight

Q: How can I keep food costs under control when trying to lose weight?

A: It's important to build an eating pattern that helps you lose weight, maintain your new, lower weight and works for you economically. You can boost the foods that help with weight loss, such as fruits and vegetables, without breaking the food budget.

Choose produce that's in season, buying just the amount you need, and select frozen produce when it's less expensive than fresh. Cut back on foods and beverages that don't do anything for you nutritionally, including soft drinks and artificially sweetened water, teaching yourself to drink more plain water or homemade iced tea.

Weight-loss diets that rely on packaged meals and drinks or exotic produce can increase food expenses, but are not necessary for success. Special 'diet' cookies and treats also are not necessary and often are not any lower in calories. For treats, select the ones you eat now that you enjoy most.

- American Institute for Cancer Research.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, www.creators.com.