Overeating can double the risk of memory loss in old age, according to a new study.
Scientists in the US have found that a high-calorie diet can significantly increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a syndrome characterised by mild memory loss, which can precede dementia.
The study analysed the dietary habits of 1,200 people aged between 70 and 89 who did not have dementia. The subjects were also given memory tests.
It was found that the chances of developing MCI increased substantially with those who ate more than 2,100 calories a day.
Study author Dr Yonas Geda from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said, as cited in the Daily Mail: 'We observed a dose-response pattern, which means: the higher the number of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk,” he said.
“Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age.”
The researchers will present the findings, which have not yet been published, at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th annual meeting in New Orleans in April.
Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer's Research UK said: "Although these findings are yet to be published, they touch on an interesting subject.
"The initial report suggests older people who consume a high number of calories may be at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
"It would be interesting to see how many of these people go on to develop dementia in the future, to see if there is link to Alzheimer's disease.
"We know that age is one of the greatest risk factors for dementia, but adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is beneficial in protecting against dementia along with a number of other chronic diseases.
"With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and this number expected to rise dramatically with the ageing population, there is a desperate need to understand more about the risk factors involved. To make real progress, we must invest in research."
Another recent study found that despite more women developing dementia than men, men are at higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Numerous studies show that simple lifestyle changes can cut the risk of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.
Avocados are a great source of 'healthy fats' as well as a good blood circulation booster. This is important when it comes to brain power, as it enhances the blood flow to the brain, maintaining healthy brain function.
The essential omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like sardines, herring, trout and mackerel, as well as walnut oil and flaxseeds (linseeds) - are high in Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid crucial to maintaining a healthy nervous system. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Fish also contains iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.
Whole grains improve circulation and help regulate glucose levels in the blood as the steadier the glucose levels, the easier it is to concentrate. This is why it's important to eat breakfast in the morning, as it not only revs up the metabolism, but keeps your sugar levels balanced as well as protecting against diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar is the brain's preferred fuel source, however before you reach for the table sugar, it's glucose that your body needs. The body metabolises glucose from the sugars and carbohydrates in food. That's why a glass of something sweet offers a short-term boost to memory, thinking processes, and mental ability. Too much sugar on the other hand, can result in impaired memory, so go easy on the sweet stuff and consume enough to boost your brain power.
Like sugar, caffeine perks up the brain but if you have too much, it can have negative effect on your mental state. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up feeling. But beware, the effects are short-term and if you overdo it, the brain can go into overdrive and make you more jittery than sharp thinking.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of antioxidant vitamin E, which is associated with less cognitive decline as you age. A good intake of vitamin E is linked to preventing poor memory. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, seeds, eggs, brown rice and whole grains. Pumpkin seeds are especially good for boosting brain power, as a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants, which are thought to protect brain neurons from damage, build communication receptors between each brain cell, and flush out waste. They also help protect against age-related diseases like Alzheimer's. Blackberries are also a great brain booster, as it contains Vitamin C which has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility.
An unlikely contender, the humble sage has long had a reputation for improving memory. Although its recommended to try sage oils, try and sprinkle some sage into your diet.
Folic acid and vitamin B12 help prevent homocysteine from building up in the body, which is higher in those with Alzheimer's. Vitamin B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are also good vitamins to stock up on when looking to boost brain power.
Tomato's contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.
A great source of vitamin K, broccoli which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.