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Diet Related to Cognitive Function in Elderly

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Researchers reported in a study published in September 2013 that adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diet is associated with higher cognitive function in the elderly. Approximately five to 20 percent of older individuals have mild cognitive impairment and 10 to 15 percent of these individuals progress to dementia each year.

Investigators evaluated 3,831 adults age 65 years or older for cognitive function using the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination four or less times over an 11-year period. The researchers evaluated dietary intake and calculated diet adherence scores.

The researchers found that higher DASH and Mediterranean diet adherence scores were associated with higher average Modified Mini-Mental State Examination scores. The investigators determined that the subjects with the highest DASH score averaged 0.97 points higher on the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination compared to the subjects with the lowest DASH score.

Similarly, the subjects with the highest Mediterranean diet score averaged 0.94 points higher on the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination compared to the subjects with the lowest Mediterranean diet score. The researchers showed that these differences remained consistent over the 11-year study period. Additionally, the investigators determined that higher intake of whole grains and nuts and legumes were also associated with higher average Modified Mini-Mental State Examination score.

The researchers concluded, “Higher levels of accordance to both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-year period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.”

Reference:
Wengreen H, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep 18. [Epub ahead of print.]

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