June 13, 2024

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Middle-aged brain predicts dementia: Best Supplement to take

3 min read

The midlife crisis has always been low-hanging fruit for comedians and it’s easy to see why: the emotional pitfalls that accompany the period between 40 and 60 are endlessly relatable.

However, there’s more to this transitional period than buying a convertible.


A new review of human and animal studies suggests that middle age marks a shift in brain ageing.

“Middle age is associated with specific and modifiable risk factors for future dementia risk,” wrote the study’s authors, who include neuroscientist Yvonne Nolan of APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork.

During middle age, the brain undergoes significant molecular, cellular, and structural changes, and many of these changes have been linked to cognitive decline, which has also been shown to accelerate during middle age.

Man looking pensive

Middle age is associated with changes in the volume of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory

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The authors found robust evidence to suggest that the human brain undergoes non-linear structural and functional changes during middle age that have implications for cognitive functioning, and variation in these processes could account for individual trajectories in cognitive ageing.

Structurally, middle age is associated with changes in the volume of several brain structures, shrinking of the hippocampus (a brain structure involved in memory and learning), and decreased connectivity between different parts of the brain.

The expression of some genes in the brain also changes in middle age: inflammation-related genes are increasingly expressed while some genes involved in producing proteins that play a role in neuron synapses are expressed less, researchers found.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of the menopause and it’s potential impact on cognition.

Studies have found women tend to have higher levels of a protein called tau that is believed to lead to cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease compared to men in the same stage of disease.

The underlying biology is unclear but one study found women with early Alzheimer’s disease who began menopause early or prematurely — before the age of 45 — tended to have higher tau levels than women who started menopause later.

Other studies find the expression of genes linked to the X-chromosome is associated with higher levels of tau.

This all begs the question: what can be done to stave off future brain decline?

Upping your fibre intake seems a good place to start. Two studies published last year found that the more fibre people tended to eat, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in old age.

Supplement on a table A daily fibre supplement could help improve brain function in over 60-year-olds, new research suggests Getty Images

Adults are recommended to get around 30g of dietary fibre each day for general health benefits.

However, the latest figures suggest that in the UK, the average fibre intake for adults is 18g – 60 percent of what it should be.

Supplementation could help make up this shortfall. A commercially available plant fibre supplement called inulin has been shown to improve memory and the overall brain function of people in their sixties in as little as 12 weeks. And it only costs 15p.

The study showed that the simple and cheap addition of prebiotics – plant fibres that help healthy bacteria grow in your gut – to diet can improve performance in memory tests associated with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Woman getting ready to exercise in the park

Exercising in midlife has been linked to improvements in thinking and memory, and reduced rates of dementia

GETTY IMAGES

Regular exercise in middle age can also protect against future cognitive decline, numerous studies suggest.

In a study published in the journal Neurology,scientists linked high levels of mid-life physical activity – over 150 minutes per week – with better brain health in later life.

This included fewer cerebrovascular lesions in late life.

According to the NHS, adults should aim to:

  • Do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least two days a week
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week
  • Spread exercise evenly over four to five days a week, or every day
  • Reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity

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