Diet in Midlife Affects Dementia Risk

Eating fruits and veggies and unsaturated fats in middle age may help prevent dementia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The food choices made in midlife could have a profound impact as people age. A healthier diet high in fruits and veggies may help prevent future decline in brain function.

A recent study found that adults with healthier diets had a lower risk of later developing dementia. That condition is marked by declining brain function affecting memory, thinking, language and behavior.

This research showed that people who ate more vegetables, berries, fruit and fish had fewer instances of dementia than people eating more eggs, sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Another finding showed that people drinking three to five cups of coffee had a lower risk for dementia than those consuming less or more coffee.

"Talk to your doctor about changing dietary needs as you age."

Researcher Marjo Eskelinen, MSc, examined the link between diet and dementia. Unlike previous studies, Eskelinen looked at the possible effects of a variety of foods rather than just one dietary component.

Results of this study showed that those who ate the healthiest diet at an average age of 50 had an almost 90 percent lower risk of developing dementia more than a decade later when compared to individuals with a less healthy diet.

Eskelinen assessed dietary health using a food consumption-based index.

An initial group of 525 participants answered questions about their diet and other health factors.  A follow-up survey on cognitive and memory function of 385 of the original group was completed 14 years later.

The participants were 39 to 64 years old at the start of the study and 65 to 75 years old at follow-up.

Eskelinen found that vegetables, berries, fruit, fish and unsaturated fat from milk products registered as healthier options.

A high intake of saturated fats, sausages, eggs, sugar and salt was linked to an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment.

“Nobody's diet is based on one single food, and there may be interactions between nutrients, so it makes more sense to look at the entire dietary pattern," Eskelinen said in a press statement.

"Even those who are genetically susceptible can at least delay the onset of the disease by favoring vegetable oils, oil-based spreads and fatty fish in their diet," Eskelinen said.

Eskelinen presented her findings March 7 as her doctoral thesis in the field of neurology at the University of Finland Institute of Clinical Medicene. The research report was published in the university’s Dissertations in Health Science.

Review Date: 
March 14, 2014
Last Updated:
March 17, 2014