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Can Nutrition Help Support Cognitive Health In Older People?

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Written By Holly Klamer / Reviewed By Ray Spotts

Nutrition is paramount for healthy aging, especially when it comes to cognitive health. Nutrition is also important for meeting energy requirements, maintaining muscle mass, preventing deficiencies, and keeping the risk of chronic diseases at bay.

But, a change in smell, motility, cognition, and dentition can reduce the food intake which can exacerbate the risk of malnutrition in the elderly. This can increase the chances of having to move the elderly to assisted living with memory care.

It is, therefore, essential to ensure a diet rich in fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and dietary fiber. The elderly should also consume low-fat dairy, dietary fiber, and protein with markers of nutrient status for vitamin C, vitamin B12, folate, and beta-carotene.

Balancing Nutrient and Energy Needs for cognitive and mental health

With advancing age, the energy needs of the person decrease. However, nutrient requirements remain the same or may even increase. The only way to meet those increasing requirements is to introduce dietary changes in a way that meets nutritional requirements even with a low-calorie food intake.

The two scenarios are common during old age:

  • Despite lower energy needs, the diet remains the same which can lead to weight gain.
  • Energy and food intake decreases leading to nutritional and dietary deficiencies.

There are ways to ensure nutrient density through the right diet. You can also work with a registered dietitian to prepare a diet chart. To find one, you can simply Google assisted living with memory care near me.

assisted living with memory care near me.

A professional dietician can offer advice on how to balance energy and nutritional requirements to ensure cognitive health in older people.

Dietary Factors Essential for Cognitive/Mental Health

Water for cognitive and mental health

Water is the absolute essential dietary factor no matter your age. While you can do without other nutrients for years in some cases, lack of hydration can prove fatal in only a few days.

Even a tiny reduction in the percentage of bodily fluid can affect cognition. Severe dehydration is a common cause of frequent hospitalizations in the elderly. Seniors have more difficulty reacting to thirst signals due to motility challenges. One way to keep the brain and cognitive functioning sharp in the elderly is to ensure proper hydration at all times.

Dietary Fiber for cognitive and mental health

This is something which is consistently lacking in the diet of older people. Dietary fiber is super important because it prevents constipation and ensures regular bowel movements. Foods that are rich in dietary fiber tend to also be rich in minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamins.

Enough dietary fiber can reduce cholesterol levels and prevent glucose spikes, thus reducing the chances of chronic diseases common during old age. Some studies suggest that dietary fiber can help cognitive health. It can fight inflammation which causes neurotoxicity. Fiber also improves the good bacteria which can prevent dysregulation of the brain’s stress response.

Protein for cognitive and mental health

Muscle loss is common during old age which is why the inclusion of protein is highly recommended even though it goes against standard nutritional advice. There’s emerging evidence that talks about how increasing the protein content can improve cognition can improve cognition, muscle, physical functioning, and aid brain health. It works better when paired with a weight-bearing program.

Calcium and Vitamin D for cognitive and mental health

Bone health is important throughout the entire life cycle. But, it’s particularly important during old age. Calcium is the most important bone mineral and vitamin D helps to absorb it.

Older people should pay special attention to vitamin D. Not only does it help with bone health, but it is also important for keeping cognitive deficits at bay. A deficiency of vitamin D can cause brain cell disruption leading to increased vulnerability of the nerves to damage.

Vitamin B12 and folic acid for cognitive and mental health

Many neurological problems are a result of vitamin B12 deficiency. As the digestive tract undergoes changes during old age, it puts the elderly at an increased risk of developing this deficiency leading to a high risk of cognitive impairment. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can change/alter the brain volume and structure leading to all kinds of cognitive difficulties.

Adequate folate status is also essential, the deficiency of which can lead to irreversible nerve damage whose signs don’t become apparent until the damage is too much.

Vitamin E for cognitive and mental health

Vitamin E ensures the oxidation of fatty acids and prevents oxidative damage to ensure better nerve conductivity and cell wall protection. A deficiency of vitamin E can result in neurological symptoms such as nerve damage. There’s some evidence suggesting that vitamin E may protect the brain white matter.

High vitamin E levels are linked with reduced cognitive impairment in older people. One study found that vitamin E was helpful in moderating Alzheimer’s and also in a delayed disease progression during two to three years of treatment. The study further revealed that vitamin E reduced the burden borne by caregivers by two hours/day.

Since vitamin E deficiency is a common issue worldwide, special attention should be paid to ensuring its intake in the elderly to support cognition.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for cognitive and mental health

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that supports cognition. Omega 3 derived from marine sources is supposed to be the best for the elderly brain health. The fatty acid makes up a big part of the cell wall where it maintains the cell membrane functioning. Furthermore, it’s great for fighting systemic inflammation and also regulating the release of neurotransmitters. Many studies even link omega-3 fatty acids with improved brain structure which can help with cognition.

Many studies have seen improvement in cognition when the participants were given the supplements.

Importance of Active and Social Lifestyle During Old Age

Other than ensuring a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, it is equally important to engage in regular physical and social activities. Additionally, the elderly should engage in healthy behaviors like a brain-stimulating environment and avoiding smoking. All of these things can together work to maximize cognitive reserve during old age.

 

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Written By:

Holly Klamer is a pet lover who owns a dog and loves to write about everything related to pets. She is a frequent writer and contributor to top online pet publications and blogs, including Faith Based Assisted Living and Pet Friendly Senior Living.

Reviewed By:

Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.

Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash


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