It is likely that lifestyle changes can help mitigate cognitive decline.


The foods we eat can contribute to our cognitive decline later in life.

This is the main finding of a report from Iowa State University published in an article appearing in the November issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The research was led by Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a neuroscience doctoral student who is a graduate student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The research is the first to relate specific foods to adult brain health later in life in an on-going manner.

Willette, Klinedinst and their team analyzed data obtained from 1,787 aging adults (aged 46 to 77 at the end of the study) in the UK Biobank, which includes comprehensive genetic and health information from half a million British participants.

The database is open to accredited researchers all over the world performing life-saving medical research.

Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of a touchscreen questionnaire at the start of the study and again in two follow-up surveys (conducted from 2012 to 2013 and again between 2015 and 2016).

The FIT analysis offers an evaluation of the ability to think on one’s own in the field.

People were asked questions about their average daily intake of food and alcohol, and asked to report at follow-up.

The food frequency questionnaire tests a person’s intake of fresh berries, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, fatty fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb and pork, dairy, pasta, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine and sparkling wine, and spirits.

The following are the four main findings from the study:
Cheese was the most powerful food in defending the brain against age-related cognitive disorders, regardless of age.
Regular alcohol intake was correlated with higher levels of cognitive function;.
Eating lamb weekly increased the long-term cognitive capacity of men.
Getting too much salt is poor, but only people who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease can stop eating too much.

“I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that eating cheese responsibly and drinking red wine daily are not only good for coping with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also for dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” Willette added. “While we’ve considered whether this is just due to what affluent people eat and drink, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine whether simple changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.”

Klinedinst also noted, “Some people are genetically disposed to be less prone to Alzheimer’s disease, while others are at a higher risk.”

However, I agree that good dietary habits will avoid the disease and cognitive deterioration. Maybe the magic bullet we are searching for is changing our diets. Understanding what that means will help us better understand Alzheimer’s and steer the disease in a different direction.

Referenced: “Genetic Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease Modulate How Diet is Associated with Long-Term Cognitive Trajectories: A UK Biobank Study ” by Klinedinst, Brandon S., Le, Scott T., Larsen, Brittany, Pappas, Colleen, and Hoth, Nathan J. ; Wang, Qian; Pollpeter, Amy; Mochel, Jonathan P.; Allenspach, Karin; Wang, Yueying; Yu, Shan; Wang, Li; Bennett, David A. and Willette, Auriel, November 24, 2020, Journal of Alzheimers Disease.
Willette and Klinedinst gratefully accept the important contributions of other members of the research team: Scott Le, Colleen Pappas, Nathan Hoth, Amy Pollpeter, and Qian Wang in the Iowa State Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; Brittany Larsen, Graduate Program in Neuroscience at Iowa State; Yueying Wang and Li Wang, Department of Statistics at Iowa State;


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