Getting plenty of vitamins and eating plenty of fish may protect the brain from ageing and improve mental performance, a study has found. Researchers also found that junk foods can actively speed up the ageing of the brain.
The study found that older people with high blood levels of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids had less brain shrinkage and better mental performance.
The researchers, from Oregon in the United States, found that trans fats found in junk foods were linked to lower scores in tests and more brain shrinkage typical of the type found in Alzheimer's disease. Memory, language skills and attention are all compromised by high dietary levels of trans fats.
The US researchers analysed blood samples from 104 healthy people with an average age of 87 who had few known Alzheimer's risk factors.
They found those who had more vitamin B, C, D and E in their blood performed better in memory tests and thinking skills.
People who had high levels of omega 3 fatty acids - found mainly in fish - also had high cognitive scores, but the worst scores were found in people who had a high level of harmful trans fats in their blood.
Trans fats are quite common in fast food and junk food. Major culprits include potato crisps, cakes, pastries, fried, processed and frozen foods. Consuming high levels of trans fats leads to hardening of the arteries, damages heart rhythm and increases the individual's risk of a heart attack. Processed foods whose ingredients are described as 'partially hydrogenated oils' are also recommended to be avoided.
The research is published in the journal Neurology.