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Although people naturally lose brain cells throughout their lives, the process of neuronal death does not necessarily accelerate with aging. “There is a lot of individual difference,” says ARS neuroscientist James Joseph. “Loss of mental agility may be less due to loss of brain cells than to the cells’ failure to communicate effectively.”
Joseph heads the Neuroscience Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston. There, researchers are looking at the beneficial effects of certain dietary plant compounds to learn how they affect brain function.
“Vitamins and minerals in plant foods provide protective antioxidants,” says Joseph. “But fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains contain thousands of other types of compounds that contribute significantly to the overall dietary intake of antioxidants.