New medical research shows a connection between poor memory and low blood levels of vitamin E in an elderly population. Published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study also showed that people who eat poorly or skip meals also have greater memory loss than those who eat regularly and well.
Making changes in your diet may be a good way to limit memory problems, according to the researchers at the Indiana University Center for Ageing Research. The study looked at the relationship between blood levels of antioxidants (including vitamins A, C and E, and selenium) and memory in a multi-ethnic population of senior citizens.
Antioxidants have been shown to protect against cell damage from "free radicals", which are produced as part of the body's normal metabolic process. The study examined 4,809 people aged 60 or older between 1988 and 1994. Researchers conducted two simple memory tests and blood tests, and gathered information on the subjects' backgrounds.
Seven percent of the group had poor memory, and were at least twice as likely to report problems managing their money or preparing meals. Eleven percent of those with vitamin E levels lower than 4.8 per unit of cholesterol had "poor memory", while only 4 percent of people with levels higher than 7.2 had memory problems.
"Increasing levels of vitamin E were associated with better memory performance for this ethnically diverse elderly population," the study authors wrote. Generally poor eating habits had an even stronger effect: among those who said they did not eat enough food or skipped meals, almost 20% had poor memory. The study notes the importance of obtaining Vitamin E from diet (almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, whole-wheat flour, corn oil and peanut oil) rather than through supplements.