Ask Dr. Marie: Cutting Calories for Memory? Elderly, Beware

Seniors Should Stay Clear of Restrictive Diets

In conclusion, it seems that even short-term modest weight loss can improve metabolic risk factors for heart and other vascular disease (which we already knew) and improve verbal memory (though it's surprising to see such statistically significant improvements over such a short period of time; I await further studies to confirm this surprising fact).

But this is in mostly middle-aged, overweight adults. Nowhere did I see this point discussed. What was "new" and therefore "news" was the notion that simple calorie restriction can improve memory -- if it were only that simple!

My advice to the elderly such as my dad (and to caregivers such as myself) is to stay clear of one-size-fits-all headlines and advice that simply sounds too good to be true. Better that all seniors have:

1) A nutritional assessment by their practitioner or a nutritionist who is experienced caring for the elderly. They will then learn exactly how they can optimize their health and memory through healthy balanced eating that matches their life and financial circumstances.

2) A comprehensive blood test to check for treatable conditions such as anemia, thyroid disease, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and low vitamin D levels.

3) I am also a fan of giving most seniors extra vitamin D (about 1000 IU daily), fiber-rich antioxidant-loaded foods (i.e. fruits and vegetables), and plenty of healthy fats such as the fats found in fish, flaxseed, nuts, and canola and olive oil. Finally, daily exercise mixing both aerobic walking and isometric muscle strengthening will do far more to improve memory and prevent frailty and falls than anything else.

What nutritional concerns do you have for yourself or your aging parents? Did the headline news this week mislead you? How have you solved the problem of good nutrition with balanced calories and nutrients in your family?

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

Dr. Marie Savard is an ABC News medical contributor. To learn more about Savard's health management system, download free forms and a sample letter to your doctor, visit and click on "Learn how to take charge of your health."

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