Healthy diet linked to slower aging, lower dementia risk

Dietary patterns, aging rate, and dementia risk in Framingham study.


A recent study from Columbia University found that eating healthier foods is linked to a lower risk of dementia and slower aging. Researchers have shown that better nutrition slows biological aging and lowers the risk of dementia. This study clarifies a healthy diet’s role in preventing dementia, but further research is required to comprehend the mechanism completely.

Daniel Belsky, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia School of Public Health and the Columbia Aging Center and a senior author said, “Much attention to nutrition in dementia research focuses on the way specific nutrients affect the brain.”

The researchers studied data from the second generation of the Framingham Heart Study, called the Offspring Cohort. Participants in this study, which commenced in 1971, had to be dementia-free and 60 years of age or older. This study began in 1971 and included people aged 60 or older who were free of dementia.

The participants also had information about their diet, epigenetics, and follow-up. Over the years, the Offspring Cohort had nine examinations spaced about 4 to 7 years apart. At each visit, researchers collected various data, including physical exams, lifestyle questionnaires, blood samples, and, starting in 1991, tests to measure brain function.

140 of the 1,644 people in the analysis experienced dementia. The tool DunedinPACE, created by Belsky and colleagues, was used by the researchers to gauge the rate at which individuals aged. This tool displays the rate at which a person’s body ages, much like a speedometer.

Yian Gu, PhD, from Columbia University, said,” We’ve found strong evidence that eating healthy can help prevent dementia. However, we still need to figure out exactly how this protection works. Previous studies have shown that both diet and dementia risk are linked to how quickly our bodies age.”

The researchers examined the effects of aging on various diets to understand this connection better. According to DunedinPACE, they discovered that adhering to a Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet (MIND) slowed down aging.

This reduced the chance of dementia and passing away as well. Fifty-seven percent of the correlation between diet and death and 27 percent of the correlation between diet and dementia might be explained by aging more slowly.

Aline Thomas, Ph.D., from Columbia University, said, “Our research indicates that eating a healthy diet may slow down aging and reduce the risk of dementia. This suggests that tracking how quickly we age could help prevent dementia. “

Still, there’s more to discover about the relationship between dementia and nutrition. More research is required to pinpoint the precise mechanisms by which nutrients impact brain aging. If the results also apply to other populations, tracking biological aging may be a helpful strategy in the fight against dementia.

According to this study, diet significantly impacts both the rate of aging and the risk of developing dementia, and monitoring the rate at which our bodies age may aid in the prevention of dementia.

However, more studies need to learn about the relationship between dementia, aging, and food. This indicates that further research is necessary, particularly to examine the impact of various meals on the aging brain.

Journal reference:

  1. Aline Thomas, Calen P. Ryan et al., Diet, Pace of Biological Aging, and Risk of Dementia in the Framingham Heart Study. Annals of Neurology. DOI: 10.1002/ana.26900.
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