A newly done study found that maintaining good dietary practice in early adulthood can help in preventing a decline in the brain’s cognitive functions in midlife.
To conduct this study, 2,621 people of an average age of 25 years were considered and were put under observation for 30 years. They were examined first at the start of the study and then 7 and 20 years later. They were also examined twice at the age of 50 and 55 years.
The study majorly comprised of testing participants’ cognitive function of the body as it was assumed that a better diet could improve a person’s cognitive functions. Cognitive functions are mental processes that help a person to carry out a task.
To facilitate the study, the participants were closely monitored to see whether they followed the three heart-healthy diets or not. These diets included the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and diet quality score designed as part of the study called the CARDIA a priori Diet Quality Score, or APDQS.
The Mediterranean diet comprised of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy unsaturated fats, nuts, legumes and fish and limits red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy.
The DASH diet comprised of grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, legumes and nuts and limits meat, fish, poultry, total fat, saturated fat, sweets, and sodium.
The APDQS diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy, fish, and moderate alcohol, and limits fried foods, salty snacks, sweets, high-fat dairy, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
For each of the above-mentioned diets, the participants were divided into 3 groups. The first group included those who got a low dietary score, the second group included those with a medium score and the third group was the one with high scorers. The scores were based on how well could they follow the diet.
It was found through the study that those who followed only the Mediterranean diet and the APDQS diet, but not the DASH diet, had their decline in cognitive functions reduced by 5 years at middle age.
Further, it was found that people who followed the Mediterranean diet and people who followed the APDQS diet were 46% and 52% respectively less likely to develop poor thinking skills at middle age.
Study author Claire T. McEvoy, said, “Our findings indicate that maintaining good dietary practices throughout adulthood can help to preserve brain health at midlife. One possibility is that DASH does not consider moderate alcohol intake as part of the dietary pattern, whereas the other two diets do. It’s possible that moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy diet could be important for brain health in middle age, but further research is needed to confirm these findings.”
McEvoy added, “While we don’t yet know the ideal dietary pattern for brain health, changing to a heart-healthy diet could be a relatively easy and effective way to reduce the risk for developing problems with thinking and memory as we age.”
It was also mentioned in the study that despite the findings of the study have been adjusted for various factors, the effects of some other unidentified factors on the thinking and memory skills might still be unknown.