Food quality and good nutrition are related to brain development and cognitive function. In this overall scheme, certain foods are particularly rich in healthful components like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants known to support brain health. Intaking many of these foods into a healthy diet regularly can improve your brain’s health, which could translate into better mental function.
A new study by Iowa State University suggests that the food we eat directly impacts our cognitive acuity. For the study, scientists analyzed data collected from 1,787 aging adults aged between 46 to 77 years in the United Kingdom through the UK Biobank.
During the study, participants were asked to complete a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) that provides an in-time snapshot of an individual’s ability to ‘think on the fly.’ Participants answered the questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline.
Later on, 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.
Scientists found that:
1. Those who eat more cheese tend to be healthy against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life.
2. Those who consume alcohol daily, specifically red wine, has shown improvements in cognitive function.
3. Those who have lambs weekly, but not other red meats, shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess.
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 problems over time.
The results suggest that 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.
Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, said, “While we considered 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.”
Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate, working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State, said, “Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer’s, while others 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 put this disease in a reverse trajectory.”
- Klinedinst, Brandon S. et al. ‘Genetic Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease Modulate How Diet Is Associated with Long-Term Cognitive Trajectories: A UK Biobank Study.’ 1 Jan., 2020: 1245 – 1257. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-201058