To fight the effects of aging, you have to eat the right kinds of fats.
Studies show beyond doubt that the cells in your body function better and keep you healthier when they get a balance of the right fatty acids.
But most Americans don’t. Here’s a quick rundown on good fats and bad fats.
Most of us consume too many vegetable oils like corn and soy oil that are filled with what are called omega-6 fats. In excess, those fats speed up aging.
The solution: Balance them fats with omega-3 fats, which is not hard to do. But first let’s take a look at an important effect of the omega-3s: They have anti-aging benefits for brain tissue.
In tests at the University of Illinois, researchers have demonstrated that two brain areas central to reasoning and memory, called the frontoparietal network and the fornix, depend on omega-3 fatty acids (as these fats are called) to function properly as you get older.
Without omega-3 fats in your diet, both of these brain parts can deteriorate rapidly in middle age. You have especially good reason to protect your fornix, because research indicates it contains circuitry tying together neurons involved in creating and accessing memories. And it’s usually the first brain area to malfunction when Alzheimer’s disease begins.
Now the simplest way to get omega-3s into your meals is to eat fish or take fish oil supplements. But because Americans eat so little fish, the Illinois scientists decided to look for other ways to supply the brain with the right fats.
“(Even though) a lot of research tells us that people need to be eating fish and fish oil to get neuroprotective effects from these particular fats,” says researcher Marta Zamroziewicz, “(our) new finding suggests that even the fats that we get from nuts, seeds and oils can also make a difference in the brain,”
The researchers found that omega-3s in some vegetarian foods – as well as in pork – can be as good as the omega-3s in fish at defending brain tissue against the vagaries of aging. I happen to be fond of pork so I take this as good news.
If you want to get more of these omega-3 fats, the general advice is to eat more nuts and avocados which contain these nutrients.
But these are most important omega-3 fats for protecting your aging brain, and they’re not from fish:
Eicosatrienoic acid: Best sources include flaxseed oil and pork.
Stearidonic acid: Best sources include hemp oil, black currant oil and spirulina.
Alpha-linolenic acid: Best sources include flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
The Fatty Acid Advantage
Another advantage of eating more foods with these fats is their ability to help the body build extra muscle. A study at Lund University in Sweden shows that when you eat these fats they lead to epigenetic changes (alterations in the way your genes are activated) that cause the body to store less fat and build more lean tissue.
So if you exercise, eating these fats should give you better results in your muscles and trim your waistline.
“We have previously shown that exercise can affect the epigenetic pattern in fat tissue. These findings support the fact that through diet and exercise, we can affect our health through epigenetic changes,” says researcher Charlotte Ling.
It’s a great combination of benefits – consume the nuts, seeds and oils with these fats and pump up your brawn and brain – while you worry a little less about getting older.