An Iowa State University research study suggests that diet may have a direct impact on cognitive acuity in a person’s later years. The results are published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity.
Researchers collected data from 1,787 aging adults (from 46 to 77 years of age at the completion of the study) in the United Kingdom through the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half-a-million UK participants.
Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of a touchscreen questionnaire at baseline (compiled between 2006 and 2010) and then in two follow-up assessments (conducted from 2012 through 2013 and again between 2015 and 2016). The FIT analysis provides an in-time snapshot of an individual’s ability to “think on the fly.”
Participants also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline and through two follow-up assessments. The Food Frequency Questionnaire asked participants about their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, oily fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine and champagne and liquor.
The study found that cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life; daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function; weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess; and excessive consumption of salt had a negative effect.
“I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” Willette said. “While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.”
The authors conclude that modifying meal plans may help minimise cognitive decline. They add that that adding cheese and red wine to the diet daily, and lamb on a weekly basis, may also improve long-term cognitive outcomes.
Source: Klinedinst, Brandon S. et al. ‘Genetic Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease Modulate How Diet Is Associated with Long-Term Cognitive Trajectories: A UK Biobank Study’. 1 Jan. 2020 : 1245 – 1257.