Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/26/2018
Publication Date: 10/30/2018
Citation: Shukitt Hale, B. 2018. Whole foods and the role of diet in cognition/brain health [abstract]. California Walnut Commission Scientific and Health Research Meeting 2018 Program, page #28.
Technical Abstract: Average lifespans have increased dramatically over the last century and by the year 2050 fully 30% of the total population will be over 65 years of age. There is a high probability that these people will be exhibiting the most common behavioral changes that occur in “normal” aging - impaired mobility and cognitive performance. These deficits may be due to oxidative damage caused by free-radicals and inflammatory response to this and other cellular damage. Therefore, foods high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, such as berries and nuts could prevent and even reverse the occurrence of the neurochemical and behavioral changes that occur in aging. Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and polyphenols which have been shown to improve neurochemical and behavioral function. Previously, we have shown that whole, crude berry extracts and walnuts are able to reverse several parameters of brain aging as well as age-related motor and cognitive deficits when fed to rats from 19-21 months of age. These effects may be the result of direct effects on brain signaling or indirect effects through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols in these foods. If these effects translate to older adults, dietary interventions, such as the inclusion of additional servings of walnuts, present a potential means of delaying or minimizing the negative effects of aging on the brain.