Food for Thought: Two Dietary Additions that Keep the Brain Well-Tuned

Food for Thought

A steaming cupful of hot coffee–ah, what could be better? Besides the pleasure involved, scientists now believe that plenty of caffeine plus a good diet can improve mental function and help stave off cognitive decline manifesting in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Beydoun et al. noted in The Journal of Nutrition that “a high-quality diet and higher caffeine intake may benefit cognition acutely and even prevent age-related decline in certain cognitive domains.”


If Your Senior likes Java, Plug in the Coffee Maker

The researchers noted that three cups of coffee per day optimize brain function, so if your senior likes his or her joe, plug in the coffee maker throughout the day. Don’t forget, though, that a high quality diet is also needed for seniors to get the micronutrients needed for brain food.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that people get plenty of “docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)” because it “goes straight to your head.” DHA actually bonds to nerve endings in the brain, positively impacting memory and overall cerebral functioning. In fact, when Alzheimer’s is found, it is often accompanied by a scarcity of DHA. The Academy noted that a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia found that supplementing DHA yielded the benefit of having the cognitive skills of a person who was three years younger than the subjects’ chronological ages.

Most of us will happily take three years of added youth!


Fish, Fish, and More Fish

Dietary sources of DHA are fish, fish, and more fish, but it can’t just be any type of fish. Experts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that we go for wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna. These nice, oily fish pack a DHA punch. Two servings of fish (about six ounces each serving) per week are optimal.

Fish are probably the best source of DHA. Although DHA is available in plant sources such as broccoli, seaweed, red kidney beans, canola oil, and other vegetarian sources, in fact, the human body in inefficient at converting omega-3s from plants into DHA, so fish are the best sources.

AARP recommends beans, fatty fish, and coffee with additional emphasis on vitamin intake to stave off forms of dementia. Their site notes that scientific studies have shown that Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C help stave off brain decline, protect against brain shrinkage, and also prevent the build-up of plaque in the brain. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of these vitamins. AARP also notes that Vitamin E may contribute to vascular health that aids in brain function. Good old vitamin D, available in milk and sunshine, may also stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to the AARP report by Michael Haederle.

Encourage seniors to eat a good, healthy diet and to enjoy their morning, noon, and afternoon coffee. Science says they will stay alert longer, with clearer mentalities, if they do so.


 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Feed Your Brain. Go Fish!” January 29, 2014. Available online at

Beydoun, May A. & Gamaldo, Alyssa A & Beydoun, Hind A & Tanaka, Toshiko & Tucker, Katherine L. & Talegawkar, Sammera A & Ferrucci, Luigi & Zonderman, Alan B. “Caffeine and Alcohol Intakes and Overall Nutrient Adequacy Are Associated with

Longitudinal Cognitive Performance among U.S. Adults, The Journal of Nutrition,

Nutritional Epidemiology, American Society for Nutrition, April 17, 2014. 890 – 901.

Available online at

Haederle, Michael, “Eat to Lower Dementia Risk.” Updated August 15, 2014 AARP. Available online at