In that the number of cases of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are projected to rise sharply in the next few decades, attention turns to the utility of physical and mental activities, alone and in-combination, to help people retain cognitive faculties as they age. Deborah Barnes, from the University of California/San Francisco (UCSF; California, USA), and colleagues enrolled 126 inactive men and women, average age 73.4 years, who were experiencing cognitive declines, in a study to assess the combined effects of physical plus mental activity on cognitive function. The researchers divided the participants into four groups. Three days a week for three months, all engaged in some type of mental stimulation one hour daily and some physical activity for an hour daily. Some also engaged in brain-training computer games and dance-based aerobics. A matched group who watched educational DVDs on arts, history and science, or participated in a stretching and toning class, served as controls. At the end of the 12-week long study period, all the study subjects – including controls - experienced improvements in memory and thinking regardless of the specific activities they performed. The study authors write that: “In inactive older adults with cognitive complaints, 12 weeks of physical plus mental activity was associated with significant improvements in global cognitive function … the amount of activity is more important than the type.”
Deborah E. Barnes; Wendy Santos-Modesitt; Gina Poelke; Arthur F. Kramer; Cynthia Castro; Laura E. Middleton; Kristine Yaffe. “The Mental Activity and eXercise (MAX) Trial: A Randomized Controlled Trial to Enhance Cognitive Function in Older Adults.” JAMA Internal Medicine, April 1, 2013
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Tip #150 - Go Nuts
A number of studies have established a body of evidence linking nut consumption to potential beneficial effects for heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, and cancer:
Heart Disease: Researchers from Loma Linda University (California, USA) studied results of 25 nut consumption trials involving 583 men and women with normal and high cholesterol levels. Results showed that daily consumption of a small bag (67g) of nuts reduced total cholesterol by 5.1% and LDL cholesterol by 7.4%. Eating nuts was also found to reduce triglyceride levels by 10.2% in participants with blood triglyceride levels of at least 150 mg/dL, but not in those with lower levels. The benefits of nut consumption were greatest in those with high baseline LDL cholesterol levels and a low body mass index (BMI).
A team from Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania, USA) followed a group of 25 men and women with mildly elevated cholesterol levels, for a five-week period. One subgroup consumed an “average” American diet [33% total fat, including 11% monunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)] and the other subgroup ate a Macadamia nut-rich diet [33% total fat, including 18% MUFA and 5% PUFA]. In the group consuming the macadamia nut-rich diet, the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol decreased (4.60, versus 4.90 in the group following the American diet). In addition, the macadamia nut-diet group experienced a decrease in LDL (low-density, or “bad”) cholesterol (3.14 mmol/L, versus 3.44 mmol/L in the group following the American diet).