“Adoption of a healthy diet probably begins early in life, and a healthy diet might also go along with adoption of other healthy behaviors,” said study author Andrew Smyth, MMedSc, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and the National University of Ireland in Galway. For the study, 27,860 people in 40 countries were followed for an average of about five years. All participants were 55 or older and had diabetes or a history of heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease. People who had experienced a recent stroke, congestive heart failure and other serious conditions were not included in the study. Participants’ thinking and memory skills were tested at the start of the study, after two years and after about five years.
Participants were asked at the beginning of the study how often they ate certain types of foods, including fruits and vegetables, nuts and soy proteins, whole grains, deep fried foods and drank alcohol, as well as the ratio of fish to meat and eggs in their diet. The study participants were followed until they experienced a heart attack, stroke, hospitalization for congestive heart failure or death from cardiovascular disease or until the end of the study.
The thinking and memory tests yielded total scores with a maximum of 30 points. Participants were considered to have declined in their skills if their scores dropped by three or more points during the study. A total of 4,699 people had a decline in their thinking and memory skills. People with the healthiest diets were 24 percent less likely to have cognitive decline than people with the least healthy diets. Among the 5,687 people with the healthiest diet, 782, or about 14 percent, had cognitive decline, compared to 987, or about 18 percent, of the 5,459 people with the least healthy diets. The results were the same when researchers accounted for other factors that could affect the results, such as physical activity, high blood pressure and history of cancer. The study was supported by Boehringer Ingelheim. To learn more about brain health, please visit www.aan.com/patients.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 28,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.