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Health Information Nutrition for Older Adults

Food for thought

Nutrition for older adults

Research from physicians at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and elsewhere could one day give new meaning to the phrase “food for thought.”

Increasingly, experts are finding evidence that our diet could play a significant role in how our brains function and our risk for developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Last May, many of these experts gathered in Chicago for a conference cosponsored by Rush to discuss recent research results.

Brain power
Findings concerning docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) generated considerable excitement, says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging. DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in high levels in fish. It’s important for normal brain function, but we tend to lose this type of fatty (lipid) material in our brains as we age. One study showed that omega-3 fatty acids seemed to enhance the ability of the brain’s basic nerve cells to communicate with each other. Initial research suggests that through diet you can replenish lost DHA. Morris’ work has shown that eating just one fish meal per week could lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 60 percent, perhaps by restoring DHA.

Know it by heart
Other studies found that people with very high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - or “bad” cholesterol - in middle age were at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease 20 years later. This highlights another area that is drawing increased attention - the possible connection between heart and brain health.

“We believe that if you increase your intake of green leafy vegetables and decrease saturated fats, which you get through whole milk, animal products and fatty red meat, you’ll prevent clogged arteries and heart disease - and you might also benefit your brain,” Morris says.

This type of diet, which tends to reduce calorie intake, might also help control your weight. That could prevent a host of other health problems linked to obesity that often affect older adults, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis and certain cancers.

Portion control
Lab research suggests eating less can help you live longer, says Jack Olson Jr., MD, a physician at Rush who specializes in older adult care. However, it’s not advisable for everyone, especially frail older adults. And if you do eat less, it’s important that you’re still getting the nutrients your body needs. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. n

Read “Good Foods on the Go” for ideas on healthy alternatives when you’re in a rush.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit ourFood and Nutritional Services home page.
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438)
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

If you enjoyed this article and are not already a subscriber, subscribe today to Discover Rush Online. You’ll receive health information, breaking medical news and helpful tips for maintaining your health each month via e-mail.

To make an appointment with a physician specializing in older adult care or to have a dietitian at RUSH assess your diet and nutritional needs, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).


Health Services for Older Adults at
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Rush University Medical Center offers comprehensive health care services for older adults and their loved ones.

  • For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
  • To learn more about our a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
  • Are you facing tough decisions as you or a loved one grow older? The Anne Byron Waud Patient and Family Resource Center for Healthy Aging offers help with your current needs and difficult questions. For more information, see their home page or phone (312) 563-2700 or (800) 755-4411.

Looking for Other Health Information?

Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

Looking for a Doctor?

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for people of all ages, from newborns through older adults.

Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the Rush doctor who’s right for you.


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Discover Rush, 2006 - Fall
Nutrition for Older Adults
Food Safety

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