Scientists in China have discovered that what you eat might affect your brain as you grow older.
Their study revealed that a diet high in sodium (a key component of salt) but low in potassium could make memory problems more likely. These memory problems are a common sign of dementia.
Why is This Research Important?
Dementia is a condition that makes it hard for people to remember things, think clearly, or make decisions. These problems can become so severe that they affect everyday life.
This illness is becoming one of the main reasons older people around the world are getting sick or dying.
China has the most old people in the world and is also aging rapidly, which makes dementia a major problem for the country.
Since dementia can’t be reversed and there aren’t any treatments that work very well, it’s crucial to find ways to prevent it or detect it early.
Previous research showed that certain lifestyle choices, such as exercise, diet, and sleep, are connected to brain function.
However, the impact of sodium and potassium (found in many foods we eat) on brain function hadn’t been explored in depth.
What Did The Study Involve?
The Chinese research team studied the effects of dietary sodium, potassium, the ratio of sodium to potassium, and salt on the brain function of older people in China.
The study included 4,213 participants, all aged 50 years or older. The researchers based their results on cognitive tests and the participants’ own reports.
What Did The Study Find?
The team discovered that eating a lot of sodium (more than 5593.2 mg/day) or having a high ratio of sodium to potassium (more than 3.8/day) could increase the risk of memory problems in older people.
On the other hand, a high potassium intake (more than 1653.3 mg/day) was linked to better brain function.
They also found out that replacing 1000 mg/day of sodium with the same amount of potassium improved cognitive test scores by about 1 point.
The researchers also believe that the effects of sodium, the ratio of sodium to potassium, and potassium on brain function might be linked to diseases that affect the heart and brain.
Meanwhile, the relationship between salt and brain function might be connected to sleep.
What Does This Mean For People in China and Elsewhere?
Even though China has been trying to get people to eat less salt and sodium for over ten years, Chinese people still eat too much of both.
They eat more salt and sodium than many other countries and exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended limit.
At the same time, they don’t eat enough potassium. This study found that the average potassium intake was only 1499.0 mg/day, which is much less than China’s recommended level of 3600 mg/day.
This research supports earlier findings that looking at the ratio of dietary sodium to potassium might give a better picture of how these two elements affect brain function, instead of just looking at sodium or potassium alone.
Want to Learn More?
If you want to know more about preventing dementia, you might find it interesting to read about how the Mediterranean diet could help protect your brain and how Vitamin B supplements might reduce your risk of dementia.
You might also want to learn about recent studies showing that olive oil could help you live longer, and vitamin D could lower your risk of diseases where your immune system attacks your own body.
This study was carried out by Ai Zhao and her team, and was published in Global Transitions.
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