This review summarises the current state of knowledge of vulnerabilities that predispose towards dysfunctional brain ageing, highlight potential protective mechanisms, and discuss dietary interventions that may be used as therapies.
Ageing is a highly complex process marked by a temporal cascade of events, which promote alterations in the normal functioning of an individual organism. The triggers of normal brain ageing are not well understood, even less so the factors which initiate and steer the neuronal degeneration, which underpin disorders such as dementia. A wealth of data on how nutrients and diets may support cognitive function and preserve brain health are available, yet the molecular mechanisms underlying their biological action in both normal ageing, age-related cognitive decline, and in the development of neurodegenerative disorders have not been clearly elucidated. This review aims to summarise the current state of knowledge of vulnerabilities that predispose towards dysfunctional brain ageing, highlight potential protective mechanisms, and discuss dietary interventions that may be used as therapies. Coupling studies of cognitive ageing with studies investigating the effect of nutrition and dietary interventions as strategies targeting specific mechanisms, such as neurogenesis, protein clearance, inflammation, and non-coding and microRNAs is of high value. Future research on the impact of nutrition on cognitive ageing will need to adopt a longitudinal approach and multimodal nutritional interventions will likely need to be imposed in early-life to observe significant impact in older age. The present review is the most recent in a series produced by the Nutrition and Mental Performance Task Force under the auspice of the International Life Sciences Institute Europe (ILSI Europe) and reflects the discussions held during the 2nd workshop ‘Nutrition for the Ageing Brain: Functional Aspects and Mechanisms’ in Copenhagen in June 2016.
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