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Healthful midlife diet may prevent dementia later

March 17, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Here's something for senior living communities to keep in mind when devising menus or suggesting food choices for residents: A healthful diet in midlife may prevent dementia later on, according a doctoral thesis published at the University of Eastern Finland.

Those who ate the most healthful diets at the average age of 50 had an almost 90 percent lower risk of dementia in a 14-year follow-up study than those whose diets were the least healthful, the research demonstrated. An index used by the investigators classified foods such as vegetables, berries and fruits, fish and unsaturated fats from milk products and spreads as healthful components, whereas sausages, eggs, sweets, sugary drinks, salty fish and saturated fats from milk products and spreads were classified as unhealthful.

The authors say the study is the first to investigate the relationship between a healthful diet as early as midlife and the risk of developing dementia later on. Previous studies of diet and dementia have mainly focused on the effects of single dietary components, "but nobody's diet is based on one single food, and there may be interactions between nutrients, so it makes more sense to look at the entire dietary pattern," says Marjo Eskelinen, who presented the results in her doctoral thesis in the field of neurology.

The study also found that a high intake of saturated fats was linked to poorer cognitive and memory functions and to an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment; a higher saturated fat intake was associated with an increased risk of dementia among those carrying a genetic risk factor of Alzheimer's disease (the epsilon 4 variant of the apolipoprotein E [ApoE] gene); and those consuming three to five cups of coffee daily had a smaller risk of dementia than those consuming less or more.

Components of this research previously were published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Read the press release.

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