High salt intake could impair cognitive function in older people

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Researchers in China have discovered that a high intake of sodium and a high sodium to potassium ratio in the diet can increase the risk of memory impairment in elderly individuals.

Conversely, a higher intake of potassium was associated with better cognitive function.

These findings were based on a study involving 4,213 participants aged 50 years or older, and the results were published in the journal Global Transitions.

Dementia, a condition that significantly impairs memory, thought processes, and decision-making abilities, is one of the leading causes of death and disability among the elderly globally.

In China, which has the largest elderly population and one of the fastest aging societies in the world, dementia poses significant economic, health, and social challenges.

The researchers aimed to investigate the impact of dietary sodium, potassium, and salt on cognitive function among elderly Chinese individuals.

They found that a sodium intake of more than 5593.2 mg/day and a sodium to potassium ratio greater than 3.8/day could increase the risk of memory impairment.

In contrast, higher potassium intake (over 1653.3 mg/day) was associated with improved cognitive scores.

The average cognitive test score increased by approximately one point when 1000 mg/day of sodium was replaced with an equal intake of potassium.

Despite China’s efforts to reduce salt and sodium intake over the past decade, the population’s intake remains significantly high, exceeding many other countries and the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a maximum of 1400 mg/day of sodium for people aged 50—79 years and 5 g/day of salt.

This high salt intake often coincides with inadequate potassium consumption.

The study’s results reaffirm previous findings that the dietary sodium to potassium ratio could be a more accurate measure of these elements’ impact on cognitive function than examining separate sodium or potassium values.

The study’s corresponding author, Ai Zhao, commented, “Based on our findings, it is reasonable to suggest that decreasing sodium intake, and properly increasing potassium intake, is beneficial to cognitive function.”

She suggested that future research should focus on determining the optimal dietary sodium to potassium ratio in the elderly, and developing strategies to improve this ratio in Chinese diets should be a priority.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The study was published in Global Transitions.

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