A new study has found that a diet rich in plant products reduces the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in the elderly.
Cognitive impairment means that an individual has trouble with their memory. This can manifest in ways such as trouble speaking, finding new situations overwhelming or difficulty recognising people.
The study is by the Biomarkers and Nutritional Food Metabolomics Research Group of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the CIBER on Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES).
This European study, part of the Joint Programming Initiative “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” (JPI HDHL), was carried out over 12 years with the participation of 842 people aged over 65 in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions (France).
Metabolomics to study the impact of diet on health
The study analysed the relationship between the metabolism of dietary components, intestinal microbiota, endogenous metabolism and cognitive impairment.
Mireia Urpí-Sardà, from the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Gastronomy and CIBERFES, noted that “What we analysed in the cohorts under study is the modulating role of the diet in the risk of suffering cognitive impairment”. Urpí-Sardà pointed out that “The results show a significant association between these processes and certain metabolites.”
The results revealed that a protective association between metabolites derived from cocoa, coffee, mushrooms and red wine, microbial metabolism of polyphenol-rich foods (apple, cocoa, green tea, blueberries, oranges or pomegranates) and cognitive impairment in the elderly.
The analysis of plasma samples indicated that some metabolites are related to the progression of cognitive impairment and dementia. Professor Cristina Andrés-Lacueva explained, “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.”
Dietary changes to avoid cognitive impairment
Therefore, changes in lifestyle and diet as a strategy to prevent cognitive impairment and its progression in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementias. “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 ageing,” said Cristina Andrés-Lacueva.
Mercè Pallàs, professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and member of the Institute of Neurosciences (UBNeuro) of the UB, stressed that: “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.”