Dementia: The diet shown to ‘reduce the risk of cognitive decline due to ageing’
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New research has examined the association of a variety of plant-based foods on cognitive decline. The 12-year study carried out in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions of France evaluated diet alongside performance on five neurological tests. Certain foods were found to have a protective effect, although not all of them for the same reasons. The researchers conclude that diet and gut microbes could be a potential vector for treatment.
The foods that were found to have a positive effect were those rich in polyphenols.
Polyphenols are a large class of micronutrients with established links to reducing the risk of chronic disease.
Foods rich in polyphenols include plant based foods such as apple, cocoa, green tea, citrus fruit, and berries.
There are over 8,000 types of polyphenols with the nutrients having antioxidant and other beneficial properties.
Many of the nutrients found to protect against cognitive decline were derived from the gut microbiome.
Some polyphenols cannot be digested by the body’s metabolism but can be broken down by microbes living in our guts.
The researchers speculate that the health benefits associated to some of these polyphenols are actually produced by the gut microbes and the processed versions of these nutrients.
There has been an increasing amount of research examining the interaction between the gut and the brain, with the gut microbiome sometimes being described as a second brain.
There were also nutrients in the study that were found to worsen the risk of cognitive decline.
These nutrients, such as saccharin, are derived from artificial sweeteners.
Saccharin is often used as a sugar substitute because it does not contain calories and has a more potent taste.
Alcohol was also found to increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Other dietary studies have examined the impact of different eating habits on the risk of cognitive decline.
Adherence to diets for controlling hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes have been linked to reduced risk of dementia.
This feeds into a growing amount of evidence linking chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, can produce positive effects in all three.
The researchers note that previous dietary studies on cognitive decline can be inconsistent due to the structuring of research in the field.
Many such studies are observational, relying on self-reported dietary information where people may not be adhering fully to the reported diet.
In some cases the studies do not examine dementia and Alzheimer’s directly but instead look at associated biomarkers that may not accurately portray their neurological state.
Larger studies do produce consistent results however, showing positive results for a variety of diets on reducing risk.
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