Dementia is a common concern among aging individuals, and a new study from the American Academy of Neurology offers some hope. According to the report, people following an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, and tea or coffee, show a lower risk of developing dementia.
While research consistently demonstrated the benefits of eating anti-inflammatory foods because of vitamins and minerals that protect cells, the current study points to the link between inflammation and neurocognitive diseases, hypothesizing that the same foods can reduce such risks.
Examining the Study and Evidence
The study consisted of 1,059 people split into three groups and regularly surveyed over three years. The groups consisted of participants with similar inflammatory diet scores, allowing researchers to focus on the critical differences between anti-inflammatory and inflammatory diets.
Those participants in the anti-inflammatory diet group consumed an average of 19 vegetables, 20 fruit, four beans, and 11 coffee or tea servings per week. The participants' rated a score of -1.76 or lower.
The other group with the more inflammatory diet consisted of individuals who consumed on average 10 vegetables, nine fruit, two legume, and nine coffee or tea servings per week. The group members averaged a score of 0.21 and above.
6% of participants, 62 people, developed dementia during the study. The disorder affected those participants who consumed a more inflammatory diet and averaged an inflammatory score of -0.06 or higher. Higher scores, especially of a point or more, developed an increased risk, roughly 21%, of developing dementia. Participants with the highest inflammatory scores were three times more likely to develop the disease.
While the findings are far from definitive, they highlight the correlation between diet and mental health or decline. According to the researchers, the study results could help inform dietary recommendations in the future.
Diet and Cognitive Function
Vegetables, fruits, and coffee help reduce the low-grade inflammation that occurs during natural aging. The minerals, vitamins, fiber, and polyphenols work together to prevent cellular damage and chronic inflammation, allowing the body to function optimally.
Poor quality diets, those focused on highly-processed foods, can lead to inflammation in the body. Additionally, a lack of nutrient-dense foods can result in deficiencies that further contribute to cognitive decline along with other adverse symptoms, such as fatigue, impaired thinking, and depression.
Researchers know there is a connection between inflammation and neurocognitive diseases. Because of this existing knowledge, it stands to reason that reducing systemic inflammation can reduce the overall risks of disorders like dementia.
Beneficial Diet and Lifestyle for Cognitive Function
As always, the best diet is a balanced one. It would be best to focus on limiting sodium, sugars, and saturated fats. Consume more antioxidant-rich foods like vegetables and fruit. Additionally, eat foods rich in fiber.
However, know your cognitive health depends on more than a diet. Brain health depends on a balance of diet, regular exercise, sleep, and mindfulness.
While the new research into dietary practices for cognitive health is promising, there is still a long way to go before it becomes part of nutritional recommendations. Still, that doesn't mean you can't start making healthy changes now to prevent issues in the future.
What will you do today to reduce your risks of dementia and premature cognitive decline?