How to live longer:
Two surprising foods that help fight
decline in later life
PEOPLE are living longer than ever before and with rising expectancy comes a rise in age-related decline. However, data collected from 1,787 ageing adults found two surprising foods that can offer protection against age-related cognitive problems.
Dementia – a syndrome involving deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities – is set to rise exponentially over the coming decades. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 in 2050. This trend in part reflects improvements in living standards, which means people are living longer than ever before.
While there is no cure for dementia, research suggests you can bolster the brain’s defences against cognitive decline by making sensible dietary decisions. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found two surprising dietary items that may confer this protective effect. The was a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity. The most intriguing finding was the protective role that cheese and wine may play.
|Cheese and wine shown to counter cognitive decline
(Image: Getty Images)
Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State, and their team analysed data collected from 1,787 ageing 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.
The database is globally accessible to approved researchers undertaking vital research into the world’s most common and life-threatening diseases.
Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of a touchscreen questionnaire at the beginning of the study 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 the following:
- Fresh fruit
- Dried fruit
- Raw vegetables and salad
- Cooked vegetables
- Oily fish
- Lean fish
- Processed meat
- Tea and coffee
- Beer and cider
- Red wine
- White wine
Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life.
What’s more, the daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function.
|Key findings: Lamb also appeared to help stave off cognitive decline
(Image: Getty Images)
“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.”
What else did the researchers find out?
Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive function.
Excessive consumption of salt is invariably bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time, the study suggested.
Commenting on the findings, Klinedinst added: “Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimers, while others seem to be at greater risk. “That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether.” He continued: “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.”