At a time where ageing populations face increasing health challenges, recent research offers promising insights into the potential of dietary interventions to support healthy ageing. From omega-3 fatty acids to essential minerals and antioxidants, these studies highlight the role of nutrition in mitigating age-related issues, offering hope for a brighter future for older adults worldwide.

Read this week’s Nutrition News in full here.

Could omega 3 be the key to reducing frailty

In a recent study published in the UK, researchers delved into the intriguing relationship between levels of fatty acids and frailty prevalence among older adults. While previous research in Korea, where fish consumption is high, suggested a correlation between n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) levels and frailty, it remained uncertain whether similar associations would be observed in Western populations with typically lower fish intake. The study, discussed in the article “Omega-3 levels linked to prevalence of frailty in older adults”, drew from the extensive database of the UK Biobank and involved 79,330 adults aged 65 years and older, with dietary data, alongside 18,802 participants with plasma fatty acid data.

Frailty, a condition characterised by decreased physical strength and resilience, was assessed using the Cardiovascular Health Study index. Plasma n-3 PUFA levels were meticulously measured through nuclear magnetic resonance, while participants' consumption of oily fish and fish oil supplements was recorded via detailed food frequency questionnaires.

The study yielded compelling results. It revealed a notable inverse relationship between frailty prevalence and plasma n-3 PUFA levels, indicating that higher levels of these beneficial fatty acids were associated with reduced frailty risk in older adults. Furthermore, individuals who consumed oily fish at least twice a week exhibited lower frailty prevalence compared to those who seldom consumed such fish. Similarly, participants who supplemented their diet with omega 3 also showed a decreased likelihood of experiencing frailty.

Even after adjusting for potential confounding factors, such as age, gender, and health conditions, these associations remained robust. Intriguingly, the protective effects of n-3 PUFAs were evident across various criteria used to define frailty, including measures of physical activity and walking pace.

These findings underscore the potential role of fatty acids, commonly found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, in promoting healthy ageing and mitigating frailty risk among older adults in the UK. While further research is needed to clarify the precise mechanisms underlying these associations, incorporating oily fish into your diet or considering fish oil supplementation may offer tangible benefits in preserving physical resilience and overall well-being as we age.

How minerals affect women’s health

The effect of minerals on women’s health, particularly during menstruation, highlights the profound impact of dietary choices on fertility support. While extensive research has illuminated minerals' role in male fertility, the significance of these micronutrients in women's reproductive health, especially during menstruation, has often been overlooked. Hormones orchestrate a complex symphony in the female reproductive system, governing menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy. The ovaries produce key hormones including oestrogen and progesterone, crucial for follicular development, ovulation, and the preparation of the uterine lining for implantation. Yet oxidative stress, stemming from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, can disrupt these delicate processes.

Minerals, however, can combat these issues according to the article “How minerals influence women's fertility and menstrual health”. Zinc does this through regulating hormone production and shielding oocytes from the ravages of oxidative stress. Meanwhile, selenium quietly delivers thyroid support, which is paramount in balancing hormones. A deficiency in iodine can throw the delicate balance off-kilter, potentially leading to thyroid dysfunction and reproductive issues. Iron, important for red blood cell formation and oxygen transport, ensures that vital tissues receive the nourishment they need. Calcium influences hormone secretion and cellular function, while magnesium, copper, and manganese work behind the scenes, bolstering enzymatic activities and combatting oxidative stress.

These minerals play pivotal roles not just during menstruation, but throughout the entire reproductive journey. From the follicular phase to ovulation, from conception to pregnancy, ensuring adequate levels of these essential minerals through a well-rounded diet isn't just about supporting fertility—it's about nurturing overall reproductive wellness. Women’s health is very complex, ensuring a balanced diet and adequate exercise is important for overall health but there are many nutrients, such as the minerals discussed here, that play a pivotal role in certain aspects of women’s health, such as fertility and conception.

Study links antioxidants to cognitive health and memory

Oxidative stress, a key player in age-related cognitive and muscle decline, is effectively countered by antioxidants, offering hope for combating age-related health issues. Recent research led by Professor Koji Fukui from the Shibaura Institute of Technology, noted in the article “Blended antioxidant supplement improves cognition and memory in aged mice” revealed that a blend of antioxidant supplements led to notable enhancements in spatial cognition, short-term memory, and muscle strength, suggesting a promising dietary support for ageing-related health challenges.

As healthcare costs associated with age-related cognitive and muscle decline soar, oxidative stress emerges as a primary culprit behind this health deterioration. Antioxidants, found abundantly in certain foods and supplements, neutralise harmful oxygen-free radicals, thereby reducing cell damage and slowing age-related health decline. Prof. Fukui's study, conducted with a team including Dr. Fukka You from Gifu University, showcases the benefits of blended antioxidant supplements in improving memory and muscle durability in aged subjects.

The findings carry significant implications for human health, particularly in addressing memory loss conditions such as Alzheimer's and age-related muscle weakness conditions such as sarcopenia. Prof. Fukui emphasises the potential of blended antioxidant supplements in preventing frailty, sarcopenia, and associated cognitive disorders, thereby enhancing overall well-being and quality of life for aging populations.

Prof. Fukui stresses the need for further research. The complexity of antioxidant supplements and individual variations necessitates a cautious approach, with clinical evidence guiding their use. Prof. Fukui advocates for tailored antioxidant supplementation in the future, offering personalised solutions to combat age-related health decline effectively and support cognitive health generally.

In conclusion, the study highlights the promising role of antioxidants in mitigating age-related cognitive and muscle decline, offering a beacon of hope for healthy ageing. With ongoing research and a focus on personalised supplementation, antioxidant-rich diets may pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for ageing populations worldwide.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.