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Study Finds Nutrient Blend That Can Benefit Brain Health

A preclinical study shows that a blend of common antioxidants and other nutrients may hold promising benefits for learning and retaining memory as we age.

Brain Healthy Foods
Feb 16 2017

Preclinical Research


Worldwide, nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. In the U.S. alone, the disease impacts one out of every nine adults over the age of 65. And those numbers are only expected to increase with the aging global population.

However, recently published in Behavioral Brain Health, an Abbott-led pre-clinical animal study suggests that eating a diet rich in a blend of key antioxidants and other common nutrients may slow age-related memory decline which is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 

What the Study Found – Nutrients That Work Better Together

To examine the relationship between nutrition and cognitive health, Abbott researchers fed aging mice one of eight distinct diets, each consisting of different array of specific nutrients.

After a 16 week study, the researchers found that those mice whose diet included a combination of the five below nutrients enjoyed improved learning and memory recall:

  1.  Quercetinpronounced (ker-se-tin) is not commonly recognized but belongs to a group of plant compounds called flavonoids that give plants, fruits and vegetables their colors. Quercetin is an antioxidant that helps protect the body from excess inflammation which is linked to cognitive decline. Quercetin is available in foods such as apple skin peels, peppers, cherries and berries.

  2. Natural Vitamin E – is an inflammation-fighting antioxidant found in many nuts and seeds and vegetables including spinach and pumpkin. Seafood is a best bet too, especially salmon, shrimp and oysters.

  3. Choline - is a micronutrient that isn’t as well known but important for many functions in the body, including brain function. Eggs, beef, and Brussels sprouts are all good sources of choline. 

  4. DHA - docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in our brains and critical for brain development and healthy function.  Choose fatty fish options like salmon, mackerel and tuna for rich sources of DHA, or egg yolks, walnuts and chia seeds.

  5. Folate – is the natural version of folic acid and commonly known as B9. It plays an important role in many functions including cell repair and maintenance, brain function and DNA development.  Many brightly colored foods like avocados, papayas and beets are rich sources of folate or leafy greens like romaine, spinach and mustard greens.

While each of these nutrients come with their own unique benefits, eating them in combination reduces inflammation within the brain’s hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory formation, according to the study. This may help to reduce age-related brain decline and various forms of dementia.

What This Means for You

While this is early research it reinforces the importance of eating a varied diet. Over the course of the day, try to get in a mix of brightly colored fruits, vegetables and fish when you can.  “Every day, we understand more about the impact nutrition has on healthy brain function from birth to our golden years,” says lead study investigator Tapas Das, Ph.D., senior scientist at Abbott. “We are learning that nutrition is critical for faster learning, recall and problem solving.  And the best part is that nutrition is one factor we can each influence through our diet and every day choices.”


Note: Pre-clinical research is a vital stage of research conducted to evaluate a nutrient safety, dosage and efficacy. They are required before human clinical trials can be conducted.