More Plants Means Healthier Brains as We Age, Study Finds

Study Finds We Need More Plants as We Age
iStock/Vladimir Vladimirov

New research published in the recent issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience looked at the effects of certain foods on mood. And not just the effects of too much caffeine and sugar, already known as culprits in influencing mood swings, crashes, and elevated anxiety levels.

For the study, the research team looked at diet habits at certain age levels, and found that the older the person, the more they benefited from a diet rich in plant-based foods.

“With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases,” study co-author Lina Begdache, molecular biologist and registered dietitian, said in a statement.

“Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress,” said Begdache. “Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too many carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress.”

The researchers also noted that younger age groups may fare better on higher protein and higher fat diets (the researchers just said “meat” not elaborating on the type or source), suggesting that the normal brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin), when released in larger doses, can help to alleviate moodiness and general behavior imbalances that can be triggered by food and just by normal teenage hormones. Those prone to depression may be thrown off by high-glycemic diets that further influence moodiness. But a protein-forward diet could help to reduce mood swings in the younger demographic.

Regardless of age, the researchers noted diets that were lower in refined sugars and caffeine were linked to more mood stability and fewer cases of moodiness.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.