The health benefits of a colorful diet

(WNDU) – Women tend to live longer than men but suffer from more diseases.

On average, women live to be about 80 years old, while men live to be 75.

Now, a new study reveals that certain colorful foods can make those longer lives healthier. When it comes to debilitating diseases, the numbers for women are far higher than it is for men.

“Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients here in the U.S. are women,” said Sepi Shokoui, PhD, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The numbers are the same for patients with macular degeneration. And with women having a longer lifespan, that means they will have to live with these conditions longer. But new research from the University of Georgia suggests that what women eat can make a difference.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that shows that healthy nutrition and medically tailored meals can significantly improve overall health outcomes,” said Richard Seidman, a chief medical officer at L.A. Care Health Plan.

And the more colorful those meals are the better.

People who ate high levels of foods high in pigmented carotenoids such as yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and carrots had a 40 percent lower risk of the advanced form of macular degeneration. A study from the National Council on Aging found the risk of dementia decreased the more you ate these foods.

Following a Mediterranean diet which is high in vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil correlates with higher cognitive function.

“We do not always pay attention to our diets. We need to explore how nutrition affects the brain and the eye” said Emily Chew, MD, director of the National Eye Institute Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications.

The researchers examined the effects of nine components of the Mediterranean diet on cognition.

The diet emphasized the consumption of whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil, as well as reduced consumption of red meat and alcohol. Participants with the greatest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest risk of cognitive impairment. High fish and vegetable consumption appeared to have the greatest protective effect. At ten years, participants with the highest fish consumption had the slowest rate of cognitive decline.

A team led by University College London (UCL) researchers identified multiple risk factors for a prematurely aging brain by estimating people’s brain age from MRI scans using machine learning.

They found that worse cardiovascular health at age 36 predicted a higher brain age later in life. A higher brain age was associated with slightly worse scores on cognitive tests and predicted increased brain shrinkage over the following two years. This suggested it could be an important clinical marker for people at risk of cognitive decline or other brain-related ill health. Researchers also found that higher brain age was associated with higher concentrations of neurofilament light protein (NfL) in the blood.

NfL elevation is thought to occur due to nerve cell damage and is increasingly being recognized as a useful marker of neurodegeneration.

“We hope this technique could one day be a useful tool for identifying people at risk of accelerated aging, so that they may be offered early, targeted prevention strategies to improve their brain health,” said Jonathan Schott, lead author, Professor, UCL Dementia Research Centre, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

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