Diet modifications may help reduce cognitive decline


The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years, according to a new Iowa State University research study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

For the study, researchers analyzed data collected from 1,787 aging adults, 46 to 77 years of age at the completion of the study, in the United Kingdom through the U.K. Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half-a-million U.K. participants.

Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of 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,” the researchers said.

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 cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life; the 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 is bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer's disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.

"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," said Auriel Willette, principal investigator and a neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State, in a statement. "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."