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Cutting Calories May Boost Aging Brains
Date:1/26/2009

commendations losing an average of eight pounds. This subset with the largest weight loss also showed the biggest improvements in memory performance, Floel noted.

Lona Sandon, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, questioned whether the cognitive and memory improvements among those who restricted calories were the result of weight loss, rather than just cutting calories.

"With any weight loss, you'd expect the results they found," she said. "You'd expect better glucose, better insulin levels, and better C-reactive protein levels. C-reactive protein and high insulin levels are associated in other studies with high inflammation," Sandon explained. "You'd expect those metabolic changes with a small amount of weight loss."

Calorie restriction does have its drawbacks, however. According to Sandon, there's the danger that older people will not get adequate nutrition as they naturally begin to eat less in their early 60s. For that reason, it's important for people this age to maintain a healthy body weight, she said.

Floel, a neurologist, agreed that it is difficult to tease out whether the cognitive and memory improvements were a result of weight loss. "They always go together in a way," she said. Her research group plans additional studies trying to replicate their results in a larger population. Future study will also look at the correlation between calorie restriction and changes detected by MRI in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex areas of the brain. The hippocampus deals with memory, and the prefrontal cortex controls executive functions and information retrieval strategies, she explained.

The benefits of dietary increases in unsaturated fatty acids also will be researched further, the team said. Floel's group will test whether the use of fatty acid-rich supplements such as fish oil can provide more accurate results than merely asking participants to improve their fish consumption, Floel added.'/>"/>

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