Fight dementia with the fridge: anti-inflammatory diet and brain health

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As people age, their immune systems can often undergo changes that increase inflammation, harming their cells.

But what if the answer to controlling inflammation isn’t found in a medicine bottle, but in your fridge?

A recent study suggests that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, tea, or coffee, can lower the risk of developing dementia in later life.

The Study: Understanding the Connection

Scientists from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens embarked on a study that involved 1,059 participants from Greece, with an average age of 73. None of the participants had dementia.

The researchers used a food frequency questionnaire to find out the main food groups that each person had been eating in the past month.

This included dairy products, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, legumes (like beans, lentils, and peas), added fats, alcoholic beverages, stimulants, and sweets.

The scientists created a dietary inflammatory score that ranged from -8.87 to 7.98. Higher scores meant the person’s diet was more inflammatory, with fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, beans, and tea or coffee.

The Impact of the Diet

The participants were divided into three groups based on their dietary inflammatory scores: low, medium, and high.

Those with the lowest scores, indicating an anti-inflammatory diet, consumed an average of 20 servings of fruit, 19 vegetables, four beans or other legumes, and 11 of coffee or tea per week.

In contrast, those with the highest scores, indicating a more inflammatory diet, consumed an average of nine servings of fruit, 10 vegetables, two legumes, and nine of coffee or tea each week.

Tracking the Outcomes

The scientists followed up with each participant for an average of three years. During the study, 6% of participants, or 62 people, developed dementia.

The team found a strong correlation between the dietary inflammatory score and the risk of dementia. For each one-point increase in the score, there was a 21% increase in dementia risk.

Those in the top third, who consumed the most inflammatory diet, were three times more likely to develop dementia than those in the lowest third.

Future Implications

The findings from this study bring us closer to understanding the impact of diet on cognitive health.

Understanding the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet could help in formulating more specific dietary recommendations and strategies to maintain brain health.

If you’re interested in improving your nutrition, consider studies on the brain-protective effects of the Mediterranean diet and how vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

Other recent studies have also suggested that antioxidants may reduce dementia risk and that a vitamin D deficiency could increase dementia risk.

The study, conducted by Nikolaos Scarmeas and his team, was published in Neurology.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and flavonoid-rich foods could help prevent dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and how alcohol, coffee, and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

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