Certain fats in the diet can fry your brain

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Saturated fat in butter and red meats lead to poor brain health.

Women studied who consume high saturated fat diets are at higher risk for declines in brain function that occurs over time. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital published the findings May 18, 2012 in the journal Annals of Neurology that included 6,000 women who were part of the U.S. Women's Health Study. Women who ate the lowest amount of saturated fat had higher scores on brain function tests that were performed twice in four years. It seems that we might use for food frying might also fry our brains.

Saturated fat just bad for brain health

The findings likely don’t apply to just women though. Multiple studies have linked a high fat diet that also leads obesity and dangerous abdominal fat to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular disease that affects the small blood vessels in the brain can interfere with thinking and lead to small strokes.

So- called bad fats come from butter, red and processed meats and cheese. Good choices for keeping your brain sharp with aging include consuming fish, poultry, yogurts and low-fat dairy.

Substitute meats with vegetarian burgers or mushrooms that are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Try eating pasta dishes with eggplant, spinach and other vegetables. Use olive oil and consume nuts, which are foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet; shown repeatedly to help prevent disease and help people live longer.

Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., commented, "it appears that the effects of eating a lot of saturated fat and the foods associated with it, such as red and processed meats, cheese and butter, over time creates a cascade effect of ill health."


It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy red meat, butter or cheese, but the study authors suggest you limit consumption to just a few times a month.

Taking control of your health to enjoy quality life years comes from remaining active and consuming a healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables and other healthy food choices aren’t more costly, contrary to popular belief. Another recent study shows eating a diet high in fructose is also linked to ‘brain rot’.

Dr. Olivia Okereke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who led the study says in a media release, "This is important because cognitive decline affects millions of older people. So, this is a promising area of research."

The newest study supports the notion that keeping a healthy body – and in this case brain – is in your control. Avoid eating a diet high in saturated fat could keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp with aging – which also means years of independent living.

Annals of Neurology
May 17, 2012
"Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women"
DOI: 10.1002/ana.23593
Olivia I. Okereke MD, SM, et al.

Image credit: Morguefile