Not remembering where you put your car keys is frustrating. Senior moments like these are common, but anxiety about losing your memory can set in when occasional brain cramps begin to occur often, or with regularity.
You may attribute such forgetfulness to getting older. But it could have something to do with your weight, and your diet. Could losing weight and eating healthier improve your memory? Research suggests this could be true.
BMI and memory
Recent a group of Brazilian scientists investigated the effect of weight loss on memory improvement. Researchers from Sao Paolo University recruited 80 volunteers with an average age of 68 and a body mass index (BMI) ranging from 30 to 49.5 (30 is the obesity threshold). The entire group was put on an exercise program. Half were assigned to a program that cut calories with healthy eating.
At the beginning of the study, the participants took a variety of tests that evaluated the quality of their memory and thinking skills. Among the findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, during the 12-month study, the more weight participants lost, the more their cognitive abilities improved.
In another study, researchers from the Indiana University Center for Aging research found that obesity could impair a person’s response to memory training.
Approximately 2,800 individuals with an average age of 74 years participated in the study. Their responsiveness to memory training was tracked over 10 years. Memory training focused on language, reasoning, problem solving and speed. Among their findings, published in the journal of the Obesity Society, those with obesity experienced only one-third of the benefits of memory training than those who were not obese.
Protect your memory
To protect your memory as you age, strive to maintain a healthy weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy. For example, someone 5 feet, 6 inches tall weighing 140 pounds has a BMI of 22.6. A major flaw of BMI is that it doesn’t account for percent body fat or where fat is distributed. However, it can be a useful way to suggest a healthy weight in relation to your height.
Eating well helps you lose weight and research shows that a healthy diet can affect your memory in positive ways. A study by Harvard researchers published in the journal Annals of Neurology found that women who ate the most saturated fats from red meat and butter performed worse on tests of thinking and memory than women who ate the least of these foods.
Food for thought
Recent research has shown that people who practice a Mediterranean-style eating pattern have lower rates of dementia and memory loss. The Mediterranean diet features fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. These foods protect blood vessels, lower levels of beta amyloid plaques associated with dementia and reduce the risk of stroke, which can severely damage memory.
Mediterranean meals also feature a little bit of wine. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and lower insulin resistance, which has been linked to dementia. Note the emphasis on moderation.