Changes in Food Affects Behavior in Elderly
We all know junk food is not good for us, but we are tempted and cave in more often than we probably should. But now, studies are showing that if we eat unhealthy all of the time it could have serious repercussions on our mental health. A new study looks at the impact heart-healthy and less-healthy dietary patterns may have on cognitive decline as people age.
Research shows when it comes to brain health, a heart-healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and fish is best for fending off cognitive decline. This is not to say you must eat nothing but vegetables, fruits, grains, and fish, you can still mix healthy foods and less-healthy foods — including red and processed meats, sugar, and beer , you will still fare better on brain tests compared to those who eat diets heavy on less-healthy foods.
The latest study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, analyzed the diets of more than 2,200 older adults from Sweden, comparing what they ate with their cognitive function over six years. The participants aged 60 and up, were dementia-free at the start of the study. At that time, they were asked to answer a questionnaire about their diets, including how often and how much they ate of 98 different foods and beverages over the previous 12 months.
The researchers grouped the participants based on their diet patterns and how strongly they adhered to a “Western” diet or what was dubbed a “prudent” diet. “Western” eaters consumed more red and processed meats, and more foods with saturated and trans-fats, refined grains, sugar, beer, and liquor.
The “prudent” eaters more frequently ate vegetables, fruits, cooking/dressing oil, cereals and legumes, whole grains, rice and pasta, fish, low-fat dairy, poultry, and drank water.
The participants also underwent cognitive testing at the start of the study and again three years and then six years into the research.
Individuals with the highest adherence to a “prudent” diet and who were less likely to eat a “Western” style diet experienced the smallest decline in cognitive function over time. Individuals with the lowest adherence to a “prudent” diet, who conformed more to a “Western” eating pattern, showed an increase in cognitive decline over the six year period.
Cognitive decline is an age-related deterioration in brain function characterized by more difficulty with memory, language, and other cognitive functions.
The researchers also found, though, that participants who consumed an array of foods from both the “prudent” and “Western” diet patterns had only about half (54 percent) the decline in cognition on average than those in the group that ate a predominantly “Western” diet.
The main message is still to try to modify your diet towards entire healthy eating behaviors and patterns. It’s never too early, never too late. The healthier you eat, the more benefits — better cognition at older age — you may gain.
Foods to introduce or continue eating more of are: vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine (just one glass a day). Foods to decrease or cut out entirely from your diet are: red meats (you do not need to cut it out completely, but decrease the amount you eat), butter and stick margarine (try substituting olive oil), cheese, pastries and sweets, fried foods, and fast foods. It is sometimes difficult to avoid some of these foods, but cutting back, or cutting out will help your cognitive health.
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