Research shows a ‘profound’ link between dietary choices and brain health

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A recent study published in Nature mental health shows that a healthy, balanced diet is linked to superior brain health, cognitive function and mental well-being. The study, involving researchers from the University of Warwick, sheds light on how our food preferences not only affect physical health, but also have a significant impact on brain health.

The dietary choices of a large sample of 181,990 participants from the UK Biobank were analyzed across a range of physical assessments including cognitive functioning, blood metabolic biomarkers, brain imaging and genetics, revealing new insights into the relationship between diet and overall welfare. being.

Each participant’s food preferences were collected via an online questionnaire, which the team categorized into 10 groups (such as alcohol, fruit and meat). A type of AI called machine learning helped the researchers analyze the large data set.

A balanced diet was associated with better mental health, superior cognitive function and even greater amounts of gray matter in the brain – linked to intelligence – compared to people with a less varied diet.

The study also emphasized the need for gradual dietary changes, especially for individuals accustomed to highly palatable but nutritionally inadequate foods. By slowly reducing sugar and fat intake over time, people can naturally gravitate toward healthier food choices.

Genetic factors may also contribute to the association between diet and brain health, the scientists think, showing how a combination of genetics and lifestyle choices determine well-being.

Lead author Professor Jianfeng Feng, University of Warwick, highlighted the importance of establishing healthy food preferences at an early age. He said: “Developing a healthy, balanced diet from an early age is crucial for healthy growth. To promote the development of a healthy, balanced diet, both families and schools should provide a wide variety of nutritious meals and create an environment that supports their physical and physical health. mental health.”

Professor Feng focused on the wider implications of the research, highlighting the role of government policy in promoting accessible and affordable healthy eating options.

“As dietary choices can be influenced by socio-economic status, it is critical to ensure that this does not prevent individuals from adopting a healthy, balanced nutritional profile,” he stated.

“Implementing affordable, nutritious food policies is essential for governments to enable the general public to make informed and healthier food choices, thus promoting overall public health.”

Co-author Wei Cheng, Fudan University, added: “Our findings underscore the associations between dietary patterns and brain health, and urge concerted efforts to promote nutritional awareness and promote healthier eating habits among different populations.”

Dr. Richard Pemberton, Certified Lifestyle Physician and GP, Hexagon Health, who was not involved in the research, commented: “This exciting research further shows that a poor diet not only has a detrimental impact on our physical health, but also on our mental and brain health. This study supports the need for urgent government action to optimize the health of our children and protect future generations. We also hope that this provides further evidence to motivate us all to make better lifestyle choices, improve our health and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.

More information:
Ruohan Zhang et al., Associations of dietary patterns with brain health based on behavioral, neuroimaging, biochemical and genetic analyses, Nature mental health (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s44220-024-00226-0

Provided by the University of Warwick


Quote: Study Shows ‘Profound’ Link Between Dietary Choices and Brain Health (2024, April 27), Retrieved April 27, 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-04-profound-link-dietary-choices -brain.html

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