Blood Biomarkers Highlight Diet’s Impact on Cognitive Function: Study 

United States: New findings detail how particular nutrients contribute to maintaining a healthy aging brain. 

Details of the News 

These beneficial nutrients match the composition of the Mediterranean diet, which is already associated with healthy cognitive aging, according to the study authors. 

Aron Barbey, the senior researcher and director of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior said that the identified nutrients “align with the extensive body of research in the field demonstrating the positive health effects of the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes foods rich in these beneficial nutrients,” as US News reported. 

Study Insights 

In the study, around 100 participants aged 65 to 75, who did not show signs of cognitive impairment, were provided blood samples and underwent brain function assessments through tests and MRI scans. 

Blood Biomarkers Highlight Diet's Impact on Cognitive Function. Credit | Shutterstock
Blood Biomarkers Highlight Diet’s Impact on Cognitive Function. Credit | Shutterstock

The study revealed that participants aged differently in terms of brain health, with some aging faster and others slower than their chronological age would suggest. 

Notably, slower brain aging was observed alongside distinct serum nutrient profiles between the two groups. 

The beneficial nutrient blood biomarkers identified included: 

  • These include vaccenic, gondoic ,alpha linolenic, elcosapentaenoic, eicosadienoic and lignoceric fatty acids. 
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, are antioxidants and carotenoids. 
  • Two forms of vitamin E. 
  • Choline is an essential nutrient. 

The researchers noted that these nutrient profiles bear similarities to the Mediterranean diet. 

Expert Commentary 

According to Barbey, such nutrient patterns “are promising and have favorable associations with measures of cognitive performance and brain health,” as US News reported. 

Moreover, this first of its kind and the largest study to check blood markers for nutrient levels, and thereby combine that data with brain imaging and cognitive testing as researchers noted. 

Barbey said, “This allows us to build a more robust understanding of the relationship between these factors.” 

Adding further, “We move beyond simply measuring cognitive performance with traditional neuropsychological tests,” and “Instead, we simultaneously examine brain structure, function, and metabolism, demonstrating a direct link between these brain properties and cognitive abilities. Furthermore, we show that these brain properties are directly linked to diet and nutrition, as revealed by the patterns observed in nutrient biomarkers,” as Barbey noted. 

The findings were published in the journal Nature Aging on May 21.