Healthy Weight Tied To Healthy Brain
Doctors have new ammunition in their fight to get patients to slim down and eat vegetables: it isn't just good for the heart, it is good for the brain, too.
Researchers at a large international meeting of Alzheimer's disease experts unveiled a study yesterday that said being obese in middle age increases the risk of later developing dementia. Another study showed that eating green, leafy vegetables helps slow normal, age-related cognitive decline.
While scientists are hard at work on medicines to treat Alzheimer's, the medical community also is expending vast resources on prevention. About 4.5 million Americans have the brain-wasting disease, and that number is expected to surge to between 11.3 million and 16 million in 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Current therapies are only slightly effective at slowing the memory-robbing progression of Alzheimer's.
In a study of about 2,000 people in Finland, those who had a body-mass index of more than 30, considered obese, when they were middle-aged had a 3.5 times greater risk of developing dementia than those of normal weight. Body-mass index takes into account factors such as height and weight. Researchers began studying people in 1972, so subjects were followed as they aged and either did or did not develop dementia. When researchers accounted for high blood pressure and high cholesterol - both of which are risk factors for dementia - obesity alone still was linked to a higher risk.
Meanwhile, a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School showed that women who ate eight servings or more a week of green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce had the cognitive function of someone 1.7 years younger than women who ate three servings or fewer of the vegetables a week. Women who ate vegetables such as broccoli and brussels sprouts were cognitively 1.3 years younger. Scientists hypothesized that fruits and vegetables may help prevent dementia because they are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C and folate. The study also looked at fruit consumption, but researchers found it had no effect on cognitive function.
The Harvard research used data from the Nurse's Health study, a wide-ranging study of more than 120,000 nurses. In 1984, the nurse's study began asking participants about their consumption of various foods. The Harvard study compared that data with cognitive tests, including memory games, that the study subjects completed between 1995 and 2003.
(Source: IHRSA Newsletter - by Andrea Petersen, Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)