A Diet Rich in Certain Plant-Based Foods Found to Reduce Risk of Dementia

Your diet can have an impact on your risk of certain diseases. Choosing the right foods can help protect you from stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other ailments. A new study out of Spain finds that certain plant-based foods may also provide protection against cognitive impairment in the elderly.

Researchers at the University of Barcelona recently investigated the link between components of the foods we eat, gut microbiota, and cognitive impairment. Their findings, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, show that foods containing certain substances protect cognitive health.

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Co-author Mireia Urpí-Sardà, from the Biomedical Research Network Center in Frailty and Healthy Aging, says, “What we analyzed in the cohorts under study is the modulating role of the diet in the risk of suffering cognitive impairment… The results show a significant association between these processes and certain metabolites.”

Specifically, the team found that metabolites derived from cocoa, coffee, mushrooms, and red wine protect against cognitive impairment. This was also true of the microbial metabolism of foods rich in polyphenol, including apples, green tea, blueberries, oranges, and pomegranates. There were other metabolites with the opposite effect, though.

Dr. Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, lead researcher and head of the university’s Biomarkers and Nutritional Metabolomics of Food Research Group, says, “For example, 2-furoylglycine and 3-methylanthine, which are biomarkers of coffee and cocoa consumption, had a protective profile, while saccharin – derived from the consumption of artificial sweeteners – is associated with a damaging role.”

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To conduct the research, the team used data from a 12-year study involving more than 800 seniors in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions of France. The participants underwent five neuropsychological tests, while their gut microbiome and food choices were measured when they were cognitively healthy at the beginning of the study.

The team says the findings show that seniors may want to modify their diets to include these beneficial foods.

Dr. Andrés-Lacueva explains, “A higher intake of fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods provides polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline due to aging.”

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The researchers also note that studies like these can be instrumental in combatting dementia.

Mercè Pallàs, co-author and professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, explains, “The study of the relationship between cognitive impairment, the metabolism of the microbiota and food and endogenous metabolism is essential to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies that help to take care of our cognitive health.”

To read the whole study, click here.

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