Many People May Be Eating Their Way to Dementia

By Denise Mann
Health Day reporter

THURSDAY, November 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and other foods with anti-inflammatory properties may lower your chances of developing dementia as you age.

But, if your diet is high in pro-inflammatory foods, you may be up to three times more likely to experience memory loss and problems with language, problem-solving and other thinking skills as you age, according to new research.

“A less inflammatory diet is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia,” said study author Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, associate professor of neurology at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens in Greece.

It is not yet understood exactly how, or even if, diet can help prevent dementia and maintain brain health. “Diet can affect brain health via many mechanisms, and according to our results, inflammation may be one of them,” said Scarmeas.

For the study, more than 1,000 people in Greece (average age: 73) completed a questionnaire to determine the inflammatory potential or the score of their diet. No one had dementia at the start of the study. Six percent developed dementia during a follow-up of just over three years.

Dietary inflammation scores range from -8.87 to 7.98, with higher scores indicating a more inflammatory diet. People with the lowest scores were less likely to develop dementia than people with the highest scores, the study showed.

Each 1 point increase in the food inflammatory score was associated with a 21% increase in the risk of dementia.

People with the lowest scores consumed about 20 servings of fruit, 19 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of beans or other legumes, and 11 servings of coffee or tea each week. In contrast, the people with the highest scores ate about 9 servings of fruit, 10 of vegetables, 2 of legumes, and 9 servings of coffee or tea per week.

It’s not the whole food per se, but all the nutrients in it that contribute to its inflammatory potential, Scarmeas explained. Each food contains both pro and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

“In general, a diet with more fruits, vegetables, beans, tea or coffee is more anti-inflammatory,” he said.

The study does not prove that an anti-inflammatory diet prevents brain aging and dementia, only that there is a link between them.

Longer follow-up is needed to draw definitive conclusions about how the inflammatory diet score affects brain health, Scarmeas warned.

The results were published on November 10 in the journal Neurology.

Dr. Thomas Holland, physician-researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, reviewed the results.

“This study puts additional weight on the mechanism of inflammation – in particular neuroinflammation – which many of us consider to be one of the main players in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia,” he said. -he declares.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

For brain health, Holland recommends the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet, or the DASH diet. All three focus on lean meats, fish, whole grains, fresh produce, and olive oil. The MIND (or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and has been specially designed to help fight dementia.

So what should you eat to help improve brain health? Holland offered his suggestions.

“Berries, dark leafy greens, nuts, whole wheat, garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, un-fried black fish and poultry,” he said.

These foods can decrease the strength and / or duration of the inflammatory process in your body and brain, Holland said. Some act as antioxidants, which absorb harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation.

“It is also important to avoid a Western-style diet, including reduced consumption of whole dairy products, fried or fast food foods, pastries and red meat,” he said.

Holland noted that pro-inflammatory foods can lead to uncontrolled inflammation and damage.

“If this damage occurs in the brain, the potential for developing dementia exists,” he said.

More information

Find out what’s new in dementia prevention at the Alzheimer’s Association.

SOURCES: Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, associate professor, neurology, National and Capodistrian University of Athens, Greece; Thomas Holland, MD, MS, physician-researcher, Rush University, Chicago; Neurology, November 10, 2021

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