Discipline: dairy & health; Keywords: Alsheimer’s Disease, diet, cheese, Fluid Intelligence Test, genetic factors.
The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years. This is the key finding of an Iowa State University research study by Dr B.S. Klinedinst and colleagues, published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, with reference: doi.org/10.3233/JAD201058. The title of the paper is: Genetic factors of Alzheimer’s Disease modulate how diet is associated with long term cognitive trajectories: A UK Biobank Study.
The authors analyzed data collected from 1787 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 touch-screen 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 the 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 most significant findings from the study were:
1. Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age related cognitive problems, even late into life;
2. The daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function;
3. Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess; and
4. 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 inadequacy over time.
A summarized comment from the lead author provides a further perspective: "Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer's, while other seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether. Perhaps the silver bullet we're looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer's and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory."