Plant-based diets could protect cognitive health from air pollution

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Scientists from German Cancer Research Center and elsewhere found eating plant-based diets may protect cognitive health in older people from air pollution.

Air pollution may increase the risk of poor cognitive function, while a plant-based dietary pattern is linked to better cognitive function.

Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants.

This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.

It doesn’t mean you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy.

In the current study, researchers aimed to explore their interaction with cognitive function among older people.

They used data from 6525 participants of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), aged 65-110 years and with normal cognition at baseline.

The team got air pollution measurements using satellite-derived annual average fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations based on residential locations.

The team got a plant-based diet index (PDI) with survey responses to assess the dietary pattern.

During a 5·6-year follow-up, the team found 1537 (23·6%) out of 6525 participants with normal cognition developed poor cognitive function.

The team found living in areas with the highest quintile of cumulative PM2.5 was linked to a 46% increase in the risk of developing poor cognitive function.

They found a strong interaction between cumulative PM2.5 and plant-based diets, with the harm of PM2.5 being stronger in people with lower plant-based diet scores than those with higher scores.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that plant-based diets may reduce the detrimental impacts of PM2.5 on cognitive function among older adults.

They suggest that adherence to plant-based diets could be used to prevent adverse brain effects caused by air pollution, especially in developing regions.

The research was published in The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific and conducted by Anna Zhu et al.

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