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October 24, 2001

Breakfast May Improve Memory in Healthy Elderly


 (SafetyAlerts) -  Eating breakfast may improve memory in healthy elderly persons, according to recent research highlighted by the Public Information Committee of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (ASNS) and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition (ASCN).

In a study of 22 men and women 61 to 79 years of age, researchers observed improved performance on memory tests 15 minutes after ingestion of pure protein, pure fat, or pure carbohydrate beverages following an overnight fast, as compared with scores achieved after ingestion of a placebo beverage containing no energy. Previous studies have shown similar results following ingestion of carbohydrate, but this study, just released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2001;74:687-693), shows that memory may be enhanced by eating any type of breakfast -- regardless of whether it is comprised of protein, fat, or carbohydrate.

Says Randall Kaplan, lead author of the study conducted at the University of Toronto and Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, "We've known for a long time that glucose can have positive effects on memory in the elderly, but our findings are novel in that fat and protein were also shown to have beneficial effects on memory. In contrast to previous studies, these results indicate that blood sugar does not have to increase for memory to be enhanced."

The beneficial effects observed by Kaplan and colleagues were strongest on memory tests and did not lead to a general improvement in brain function. Further research is needed to determine whether fat and protein exert any additional unique effects on cognitive function and whether similar effects are observed in younger subjects.

The improvements in memory observed in this study were for a limited period of time, and were more prolonged following carbohydrate ingestion than fat or protein. Some researchers believe that the best approach to preserving memory over the long-term is to maintain healthy behaviors throughout the life cycle, such as:

-- Exercising regularly,
-- Maintaining a healthy body weight, and
-- Eating a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables.

These behaviors will not only decrease the risk of memory decline and dementia, but will also reduce the risk of many other chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Source: PRNewswire.

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