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New report highlights importance of diet on brain health

By: Age UK
Published on 31 January 2018 12:00 AM

Experts from around the world have examined the evidence to date on the impact of diet on brain health in adults aged 50 and over. They found that foods which are good for our heart are also good for the health of our brains.

The report from the Global Council of Brain Health (GCBH) also concluded that it's never too late to improve your diet and see positive results.

Through eating a combination of different types of food such as leafy greens, berries and good fats in the form of extra virgin olive oil and omega-3 rich fish, people can expect long-term health benefits.

Among the advice given on what to include in your diet, the report also warns people of all ages to go easy on the amount of salt, wine, caffeine and chocolate they consume, if they want to maintain their brain health as they grow older.

Whilst it appears there is no single magic ingredient when it comes to improving brain health, the best foods to include in your diet regularly and the things to avoid are listed below:

Encourage Include Limit:

Fresh vegetables (in particular leafy greens)

Healthy fats (such as those extra virgin olive oil)

Nuts (a high calorie food, so limited to a moderate amount)

Seafood

Fruits (in addition to berries, previously mentioned)

Low fat dairy, such as yogurt

Poultry

Grains

Beans and other legumes

Fried food

Pastries

Processed foods

Red meat

Red meat products

Whole fat dairy such as cheese and butter

Salt

The team of experts also recognised that barriers to healthy eating can include a lack of time to prepare food and the potential expense. However there are a number of quick wins for people of any age wanting to improve their diet, such as:

  • Seek out green leafy vegetables and berries
  • Eat nutrient dense food in sensible portion sizes (it can be helpful to use smaller plates to start with)
  • Rinse canned foods to remove excess salt and sugar
  • Add lemon, spices and herbs instead of salt
  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Make an effort to try and new vegetable each week
  • Drink fizzy water in place of fizzy sugary drinks

James Goodwin, Chief Scientist at Age UK, said:

'The great value of this report is that it spells out in an uncomplicated way what we know for certain about the diet and brain health and what we can do to maintain our brain health by eating wisely. Though there is no ‘silver bullet’, making simple changes to what we eat, along with other vital lifestyle changes, can make a big difference over our life time.'

Though the GCBH is confident that the evidence shows a heart healthy diet is also good for brain health, the relationship between diet and prevention of cognitive decline and dementia needs further research.

Get the report

The full report offers further information and more practical tips to help people incorporate healthy eating habits to maintain brain health.

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Last updated: May 26 2022

-- Ends --

Notes to editors:

A copy of Age UK's 'It Doesn't Add Up' campaign report can be found here

[i] Age UK. February 2022. Research briefing: Estimating the impact of the April 2022 energy price cap rise on older households in England. Age UK [Online]. Available at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/safe-at-home/estimating-the-impact-of-the-april-2022-energy-price-cap-rise-on-older-households-in-england.pdf.

[ii] Age UK. May 2022. Research Briefing: Estimating the impact of rising prices on older households in the UK in 2022-23. Age UK [Online]. Available at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/safe-at-home/estimating-the-impact-of-rising-prices-on-older-households-in-the-uk-in-2022-23-may-2022.pdf.

[iii] Older households are defined as households with at least one person aged 60 or over.

[iv] ‘Over the next year’ refers to 2022/23.

[v] The snapshot survey was carried out online.

[vi] Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £182.60 or a pensioner couple to £278.70, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £38.85 a week.

  • The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world working in areas of brain health related to human cognition
  • The GCBH is convened by AARP with support from Age UK to offer the best possible advice about what older adults can do to maintain and improve their brain health.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email media@ageuk.org.uk 

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