Calories Improve Memory

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A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that supplemental calories may improve memory in elderly people, many of whom do not eat enough. Randall J. Kaplan, of the University of Toronto, and his colleagues studied brain function in 22 people aged 61 to 79 years, before and after feeding them drinks that contained protein, carbohydrate, fat, or a placebo. The ingestion of energy -- calories -- regardless of the source, improved the participants' test results, and the overall improvements were stronger for each drink 60 minutes after ingestion rather than 15 minutes after consuming the drink. Previous research has shown a beneficial effect of carbohydrate on memory performance, Dr. Kaplan says, but the finding that protein and fat also enhance memory is new. An editorial accompanying the study suggests that poor nutrition may contribute to many of the cognitive impairments associated with old age, such as fading memory and diminished attention span.