Lose weight, prevent dementia?

The number or people with dementia is expected to quadruple in the next 30 years. New findings suggest eating less may help prevent the syndrome.

If you look at old photos of Paolo Jimenez, it would be hard to recognize him today. Paolo blames his extra weight on his love of junk food.

Paolo decided to cut the junk food out and began working out. He also ate better. He finally lost more than 60 pounds. However, he noticed more than just a change on the scale.

"Your energy level is better, you think better ... you just remember things," said Paolo. "Just, everything follows after you start losing weight ... you cut your calories."

A new German study suggests improved memory is an extra benefit to eating less. Researchers followed three small groups of 60-year-old people. One group ate normally, another ate more fish and olive oils, and the third cut their calories.

In the study, those who reduced their caloric consumption by 30 percent had an improvement in world-learning tasks. That may suggest a boost in verbal memory.

"I think if you're cutting your calories, hopefully you're making better food choices," said Ruth Pupo, registered dietician, White Memorial Medical Center.

Pupo says eating less fatty and processed foods means less fat, less bad cholesterol and less plaque build-up in the arteries.

"If we reduce the fat, reducing the plaque in our body and improving our good cholesterol, we can, therefore, keep our brain cells healthier and regenerating at an appropriate rate," said Pupo.

Pupo says it's an added benefit that might inspire more people to eat less and exercise more.

"If they feel that they are investing in their future -- and their memory function improves -- I think that would be another motivator," said Pupo.

"Once you start to eat healthy, maybe your brain functions better. And I think that in general, it just follows through with that," said Paolo.

Study authors believe decreased levels of blood sugar and inflammation may boost brain cells and improve memory.

The group in the study that ate more unsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil and fish did not see a difference in memory.



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