Plant-based diet can reduce brain risks later

Dr Muattar Hanif 04:07 PM, 22 Nov, 2019

The Life expectancy of people around the world has increased and UN statistics estimate that the global population aged 80 years or over will be around 425 million by 2050. However, with an ageing population the numbers of people affected by cognitive decline is set to increase.

According to latest research, plant-based rich diet and low animal products intake can have huge impact on cognitive performance. This food diet especially taken during midlife is highly associated with significantly lower risk of mental impairment. The effect of which can be felt later in life.

According to the latest estimates from all over the world, there are currently 137 million people over the age of 80 worldwide. Experts expect this number to triple by 2050.

The recent statistics also signifies an overall rise in number of people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The data available from trusted sources show that around 5 million adults are living with Alzheimer's. This number is also likely to triple within the next few decades.

With a surge in population, the total of aging people also increases. Hence, the need to identify modifiable risk factors becomes increasingly important. This is especially crucial for mental conditions such as Alzheimer's. It is widely accepted that lifestyle changes can prevent neurodegenerative conditions to develop in the first place.

Among important lifestyle changes, the new study noted that nutrition tops them all. Having a diet enriched in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low amount of animal products and dairy can lower the risk of cognitive decline later in life.

According to the study appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Professor Puay and colleagues examined data of 63,257 people living in Singapore.

As part of the initial study, adults aged 45–74 provided information about their "usual diet, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, sleep duration, height, weight, and medical history." After which researchers compiled the data from the participants again. This included three follow up visits over the span of 18 years.

For the latter part of the study, Prof. Puay and colleagues used the data assembled to select information on 16,948 people with ages of 53. These participants only completed cognitive function assessments during their third follow-up visit. To assess the participants' eating habits, the researchers used five dietary patterns:

  1. a tweaked version of the typical Mediterranean diet
  2. the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)Trusted Source diet
  3. the alternative Healthy Eating Index
  4. the plant-based diet index
  5. the healthful plant-based diet index

All of these diets are similar in their emphasis on plant-based foods. The latter two indexes assign positive scores to eating plant-based foods and reverse scores for eating less healthful plant foods or animal foods.

Around 14.4% of participants had develop cognitive impairment. The researchers found that people who had strongly adhered to the five dietary patterns outlined above during midlife were less likely to develop cognitive impairment later on.

Specifically, participants whose diets were deemed most similar by researchers to those five dietary patterns were less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with the least similar diets.

The results signified that studies conducted in past have shown mixed results when it comes to diet and the risk of cognitive impairment. The study suggested to maintain a healthful dietary pattern. This is important for the prevention of onset and delay of cognitive impairment. Such food patterns are not about the restriction of a single food item but the composition of an overall pattern that recommend cutting back on processed red meats and including lots of plant-based foods.

-this article was published in Medical News Today



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