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Fats are good for the brain as we get older

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Fatty acids from butter, meat and cheese play a key role in healthy ageing.

The fats—along with Omega 6, 7 and 9—help maintain brain structures in areas that involve memory and general cognitive abilities.

Older people have been warned to eat less saturated fats as they’ve been linked to ‘bad’ HDL cholesterol, which is supposed to increase the risk of heart disease—but researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign say the fats are important to maintain brain health as we get older.

People with higher levels of fats in their body score better on memory tests, and scans show that brain structures in the frontal, temporal, parietal and insular regions are also larger, while those with the least amount of grey matter and low fat levels performed the worst.  

The researchers analysed data from 111 older people whose brains had been scanned, and levels of fats were assessed from blood samples before their memory skills were tested, which included recalling what someone had said and as what they’d read.

Getting the participants to carry out memory and cognitive tests is something of a first in research.  “We’re missing really important pieces of information if we just look at nutrition as it relates to brain structures and we don’t study cognition, or if we look at nutrition as it relates to cognition and we don’t study the brain,” said Aron Barbey, one of the researchers.

As countless studies have demonstrated before, the research shows yet again that diet and nutrition play a key part in healthy ageing.

Journal of Nutrition, 2023; doi: 10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.03.016
Article Topics: brain health, Good fats
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