Choline May Fight Aging by Improving Memory, Brain Function
Choline, a nutrient found in legumes, fish, and other foods, appears to have an important role in improving memory and brain function. New research adds support to a growing number of studies showing an association between diet, nutrition, aging, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
A combination of nutrients help brain function
Research studies into nutrition and dietary practices in the fight against aging and ways to preserve and improve memory and brain function continue to reveal the potential benefits of various nutrients, with some appearing more promising than others. Among those being investigated is choline, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is a chemical found in neurons (nerve cells) and is critical in brain function and memory because it carries information between nerve cells. Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with loss of memory and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The new study, which appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved data gathered from 1,391 adults ages 36 to 83 who had participated in the Framingham Offspring study. Data included completed food-frequency questionnaires, tests of memory and other cognitive abilities, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans.
Senior investigator Rhonda Au of Boston University School of Medicine and her colleagues found higher choline intake was associated with better results on memory tests than was lower intake. Although the difference between the two groups was not large, Au suggested that people with lower choline intake are more likely to be on the road toward a decline in mental capacity.
The importance of choline in supporting brain function and preventing memory loss associated with aging and dementia has been recognized in previous studies. In fact, choline is a key ingredient, along with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, in a product targeted for people with Alzheimer’s disease to help prevent loss of brain function.
The study conducted by Au and colleagues does not prove choline alone protects memory or brain changes associated with aging. However, the results do suggest that choline and other nutrients have a significant role in the aging of the brain, and so attention to diet may be an important way to help prevent or slow down the disease.
Poly C et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 Dec; 94(6): 1584-91
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