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Breakfast Boosts Brains of Elderly

Breakfast—the often forgotten meal . . . that might keep you from being forgetful. Results of a study show that eating breakfast might help keep your brain sharp as you age.

Researchers from Toronto asked 11 men and 11 women aged 61 to 79 years to fast overnight and then consume a 300-mililiter drink of either pure protein (whey), carbohydrate (glucose), fat (safflower oil) or a nonenergy placebo. On four separate mornings, subjects were told a story and then asked to recall the details 15 minutes and 60 minutes after drink ingestion. Researchers also measured plasma glucose and insulin concentrations.

All of the energy drinks improved immediate (15-minute) paragraph recall and tended to improve delayed (60-minute) recall. Only the carbohydrate drink increased blood glucose, signifying that it is energy ingestion and not blood glucose levels that influence cognitive performance. Previous research had linked carbohydrates—specifically glucose or sugar intake—with improved memory. However, the carbohydrate drink did elicit the best results on the 60-minute recall test.

Tammy Baker, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association says that the elderly may see the most cognitive improvements from breakfast because unlike young people, their bodies cannot compensate as well for missed meals.

Interestingly, each of the macronutrients seemed to exert a slightly unique effect on memory, indicating that it is best to have a well-rounded breakfast. This research was originally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (November 2001).

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