Leaves blowing from a face-shaped tree representing loss of brain function
/ Inside Food science
/ Inside Food science

How does what you eat affect brain function?

What’s the link between the food we eat and brain function?

We’ve spoken on the Food Matters Live Podcast recently about nutrition and healthy ageing, but the link with cognitive function warrants an episode all of its own.

There’s a lot of current research into whether diet can slow down cognitive ageing and even reduce your risk of dementia.

The notion of ‘brain food’ is nothing new, but how much of what we’re told stands up to scrutiny? 

What does the research tell us?  And what should we be eating to keep our brains healthy?

The brain makes up just two per cent of our bodyweight, but uses 20 per cent of our oxygen intake, 20 per cent of the glucose we consume, and needs more than 1,000 litres of blood every day.

It would seem to follow that the nutrients we consume through the food we eat will have a big impact on our brain function.

But we’re interested in looking at the facts, the science, and the research that either supports or contradicts that assumption.

In recent years it’s been suggested there are particular foods which protect cognitive health, does Omega-3 have as big an impact as some would have us believe? And does it matter how it’s consumed?

What role do the food and supplements industries have to play in ensuring we’re all getting the right nutrients to maintain cognitive function?

We also look at the impact nutrition can have on Dementia, how what we eat can affect short-term cognitive function, and ask how you go about getting people to change their diets.

Anne-Marie Minihane, Professor of Nutrigenetics and Head of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine in the Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia

Anne-Marie and her team’s research programme investigates the impact of dietary components (marine omega-3- fatty acids and a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern) and APOE genotype on cardiovascular and cognitive health.

A particular focus is the molecular and physiological basis for the interactive impact of menopause and an APOE4  genotype (25% of the UK population) on neuropathology and overall brain health, and examining the ability of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to mitigate the accelerated brain ageing in APOE4 females.

Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing (NIHA) is focussed on providing agency, and the capability, opportunity and motivation to us as individuals and communities, to adopt heathier behaviours (eating, physical activity, socialisation, sleep etc.) aligned with recommendations

In addition, at UEA, Anne Marie contributes to the teaching of the Medical and Bioscience students, in the area of nutrition and disease prevention and therapeutics.

She is academic advisor to ILSI Europe (a tripartite consortium of Industry, Academia and Policy organisations) and Deputy Editor of Frontiers in Nutrition. 

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