Can diet and nutrition impact age-related cognitive decline?

Researchers from Ulster University in Northern Ireland have established the pivotal role that diet and nutrition play in maintaining brain health. Their study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, reviewed existing evidence regarding the relationship between specific nutrients and cognitive function and depression during aging.

  • Aging is associated with cognitive decline since it leads to changes in brain volume, neuron and synaptic loss, dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier, and the development of amyloid plaques. The production of neurotransmitters, namely, serotonin and dopamine, is also reduced.
  • Current estimates for the year 2050 show that from the two billion people who will be over the age of 60 by then, approximately 131 million of them will be affected by dementia. Moreover, it is estimated that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • The prevalence of cognitive and mental disorders highlights the need for preventive measures that can reduce the risk or delay the onset of these disorders. Previous studies have shown that diet and specific nutrients have potential use in preventing age-related cognitive decline.
  • The review of existing studies showed that following the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, unsaturated fatty acids and moderate consumption of alcohol, improves cognitive function and reduces the risk of depression in older adults.
  • Results of prior studies have shown that vitamins B, C, D, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and polyphenols are important for maintaining brain health. Meanwhile, there are conflicting results regarding the importance of carbohydrates on mental health so no clear associated could be determined.

Overall, this study shows that diet and certain nutrients play a role in maintaining mental and cognitive health as a person ages.

The full text of the study is available at this link.

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Journal Reference:

Moore K, Hughes CF, Ward M, Hoey L, Mcnulty H. DIET, NUTRITION AND THE AGEING BRAIN: CURRENT EVIDENCE AND NEW DIRECTIONS. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 10 January 2018;77(02). DOI: 10.1017/s0029665117004177

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