Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods such as salmon, were associated with better executive function and with fewer changes to the white matter of the brain, but there was no association between omega-3s and any of the other measures of mental abilities.
"Executive function" is a term used to describe higher level thinking involving planning, attention and problem solving. In this case, seniors were asked to do an exercise that involved matching the number 1 with the letter A, the number 2 with B, and so on, which shows flexibility in thought, Bowman explained.
White matter changes can be indicative of damage to the small blood vessels of the brain, he said.
The people with high levels of trans fats performed worse on tests of mental abilities and had smaller brains, according to the report.
Dr. Marc Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said the study is "intriguing." While most studies ask people to recall what they ate, in this one, researchers actually measured what participants had absorbed by using blood biomarkers.
"Two issues make this approach more valid," said Gordon, also an Alzheimer's researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y. "One could be the unreliability of people's recollections about what they ate, and the other is that just because someone ate something doesn't mean they absorbed it."
However, he said, the group studied was unique in that they were unusually healthy for their age. The results might be different in a less healthy group of seniors. Prior research, for example, looked at giving people with Alzheimer's omega-3 fatty acid supplements and found it didn't help.
The researchers noted that because their study was observational, meaning they found an association between certain nutrients and brain characteristics rather than showing cause-
All rights reserved