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Can Food Choices Affect Brain? Study Says Balanced Diet Linked To Better Cognition, Mental Health – Medical Daily

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Can food choices affect brain health? Researchers of a new study who investigated the link found that a balanced diet is associated with better cognitive function and mental health.

In the study involving 181,990 participants from the UK Biobank, researchers examined how food choices are associated with cognitive function, mental health, metabolism, brain imaging, and genetics. The findings were published in Nature.

The participants were categorized into four dietary subtypes based on naturally developed dietary patterns derived from their food preferences. These subtypes included the reduced-starch or starch-free group, vegetarian group, high protein and low fiber group, and balanced group.

The study examined the consumption of vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, cheese, cereal, red wine, spirits, and bread in each category. The results showed that 57% of participants had food preferences for a healthy, balanced diet, indicating that they consumed a well-rounded combination of all food types without excessive quantities in any category.

The analysis showed that those in the healthy balanced diet group had better brain health, cognitive function, and mental health than low-carb, vegetarian, and high protein/low-fiber groups.

They scored better in terms of factors such as fluid intelligence or the ability to solve new problems, processing speed, memory, and executive functions compared to those who were on other types of diets. The brain imaging showed that those who were on a healthy diet had higher gray matter volumes (the outermost layer of the brain) and better-structured neurons (brain cells), indicators of brain health.

Participants who were in the balanced group exhibited the lowest indicators of mental health issues and scored highest in overall well-being and cognitive function compared to other dietary subtypes. This suggests that a balanced diet pattern is associated with better brain health and cognition than other subgroups.

The researchers say their findings emphasize the importance of educating people about healthy eating habits from a young age for long-term brain health.

However, the study has certain limitations. The analysis is based on food-liking data, not on the actual consumption. The other limitations include potential selection bias in the UK Biobank sample, potential oversimplification of mental health assessment measures, and an incomplete consideration of key dietary components like tryptophan and omega-3/6 fatty acids.

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