FRIDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Women who eat a lot of "bad" saturated fat may hurt their overall brain function and memory over time, Harvard University researchers report.
In contrast, eating more "good" monounsaturated fat improved brain function and memory, suggesting that fats may have the same effect on the brain as they do on the heart, the researchers added.
"Making changes and substitutions in one's diet to eat fewer saturated fats and consume more monounsaturated fats might be a way to help prevent cognitive decline in older people," said lead researcher Dr. Olivia Okereke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "This is important because cognitive decline affects millions of older people. So, this is a promising area of research."
Just like exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, this may be another modifiable factor in the fight against mental decline, Okereke added.
"Such modifiable factors are important because these are things that people can actually change and over which they can exert some individual control," she said.
The report was published in the May 18 online edition of the Annals of Neurology.
For the study, Okereke's team collected data on 6,000 women who took part in the U.S. Women's Health Study.
These women took three brain function tests every two years over an average span of four years.
In addition, they filled out detailed food questionnaires at the start of the study and before the brain tests.
The researchers found that over time, women who ate the highest amounts of saturated fat had the worst overall brain function and memory, compared to the women who ate the least.
Moreover, women who ate the most monounsaturated fats had higher scores on brain tests over the four years of testing, they note.
Saturated fat comes from animal fats such
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