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Studies link healthy brain aging to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Gorkha Post

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CAMPAIGN,ILLINOIS — Recent two studies have identified links between polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood and cognitive abilities that are known to decline early in aging.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can promote healthy aging. However, further research is needed to test this hypothesis, researchers said.

In a study reported in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, the researchers looked for relationships between several omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, the relative size of structures in the frontal and parietal cortices of the brain, and performance on tests of fluid intelligence in healthy elderly adults.

The team found correlations between blood levels of three omega-3 fatty acids — ALA, stearidonic acid and ecosatrienoic acid — and fluid intelligence in these adults. Further analyses revealed that the size of the left frontoparietal cortex played a mediating role in this relationship.

“We studied a primary network of the brain — the frontoparietal network – that plays an important role in fluid intelligence and also declines early, even in healthy aging,” Zamroziewicz said. Fluid intelligence describes the ability to solve problems one has never encountered before.

People with higher blood levels of these three nutrients tended to have larger left frontoparietal cortices, and the size of the frontoparietal cortex predicted the subjects’ performance on tests of fluid intelligence.

The brain is a collection of interconnected parts, each of which ages at its own pace. Some brain structures, and the abilities they promote, start to deteriorate before others, said University of Illinois MD/PhD student Marta Zamroziewicz, who led the new research with psychology professor Aron Barbey.

“In a separate study, we examined the white matter structure of the fornix, a group of nerve fibers at the center of the brain that is important for memory,” Zamroziewicz said.

Previous research has shown that the fornix is one of the first brain regions to be compromised in Alzheimer’s disease.

In both studies, the researchers looked for patterns of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood of adults ages 65 to 75. They analyzed the relationship between these nutrient patterns and subjects’ brain structure and performance on cognitive tests. This research differs from other such studies, which tend to focus on only one or two polyunsaturated fatty acids, Zamroziewicz said.

“Most of the research that looks at these fats in health and healthy aging focuses on the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, but those come from fish and fish oil, and most people in the Western Hemisphere don’t eat enough of those to really see the benefits,” she said.

Other fatty acids, like alpha-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid, are precursors of EPA and DHA in the body. Those fats can be derived from land-based foods such as nuts, seeds and oils.

“A central goal of research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience is to understand how these nutrients affect brain health,” Zamroziewicz said. “Some of these nutrients are thought to be more beneficial than others.”

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“A lot of research tells us that people need to be eating fish and fish oil to get neuroprotective effects from these particular fats, but this new finding suggests that even the fats that we get from nuts, seeds and oils can also make a difference in the brain,” Zamroziewicz said.

In the second study, the team found that the size of the fornix was associated with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood, and that a more robust fornix coincided with memory preservation in older adults.

Again, the researchers saw that brain structure played a mediating role between the abundance and balance of nutrients in the blood and cognition (in this case, memory).

The findings are reported in the journal Aging & Disease.

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Drinking 3 cups of coffee or tea daily may keep stroke risk at bay

Raghu Kshitiz

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KATHMANDU — There have been several conflicting studies on the health benefits of drinking coffee and tea and their various varieties. But drinking up to three cups of coffee or tea in a day is safe because it reduces irregular heartbeat and stroke risk, according to a new study published in the journal JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.

Coffee has previously been believed to worsen abnormal heart rhythms, as doctors generally discourage patients suffering from the condition. However, the results of this particular study say that a daily consumption of upto 300 mg of caffeine may be safe for arrhythmic patients.

This is because the caffeine acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system and blocks the effect of adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical which causes Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).

A single cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. It acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system and works to block the effects of adenosine — a chemical that causes AFib.

AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder, causes the heart to beat rapidly and skip beats, and if left untreated, can cause strokes.

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“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems,” said lead author Peter Kistler, Director at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital.

But, “caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea have long-term anti-arrhythmic properties mediated by antioxidant effects and antagonism of adenosine,” he added.

A meta-analysis of 228,465 participants showed that AFib frequency decreasing by 6 per cent in regular coffee drinkers, and an analysis of 115,993 patients showed a 13 per cent reduced risk.

Another study of 103 post-heart attack patients who received an average of 353 mg of caffeine a day showed improvement in heart rate and no significant arrhythmias — or abnormal heart rhythms, that cause the heart to beat too fast, slow or unevenly.

However, in two studies, where patients drank at least 10 cups and nine cups of coffee per day, showed an increased risk for ventricular arrhythmias (VAs) – a condition in which the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) beat very quickly.

On the other hand, patients with pre-existing heart conditions who consumed two or more energy drinks — that contains concentrated caffeine — per day reported palpitations within 24 hours.

With Agency Inputs

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