As you age, your risk of dementia increases. Age is one of the greatest risk factors for dementia. The number of people suffering from this disease, which according to the World Health Organization is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, is predicted to increase as lifespans lengthen. As researchers study both the disease and ways to prevent or delay its effects, new studies have found one simple, but powerful connection: food and cognitive function. New research from a few different studies has found a link between poor diets – high in fats, sugars, and processed foods – and greater chances of developing dementia.
Your Cognitive Function can be Impacted by the Food you Eat!
Studies, like the one authored by Huiping Li and published in Neurology, show that the amount of processed foods you eat is linked to your risk of dementia. The more processed foods that you eat, the higher your chance of developing dementia. So, eat more healthy food and you lower your risk of dementia and live longer without impaired brain function. Li also makes it clear that this study neither shows that a poor diet causes dementia nor that dementia can be avoided by eating a healthy diet.
You can lower your risk of dementia simply by replacing some of those poor diet choices with a healthy one. Add a daily apple to your routine. Take out a chocolate bar. This small step can lower your risk of dementia by 3 percent, according to Li. Your “dose” of processed foods and healthy, unprocessed foods is correlated to your risk of dementia. As the amount of processed foods increased, so did the participants’ chances of dementia.
Dementia is associated with inflammation. Another study published by Neurology studied inflammatory foods and dementia. Again, results showed a connection between diet and dementia. People who ate more inflammatory foods were more likely to develop dementia. Inflammatory foods are often highly processed and refined.
So what should you eat to maintain your brain’s optimal function? It is most important that a variety of fruits and vegetables make their way into your diet. Avoid processed, prepackaged foods. Remember that the more of these you eat, the more your risk of dementia goes up. A well-balanced diet is the best route to take, full of fish, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Here are a few diets that are consistently associated with optimal brain function and lowered risk of dementia.
The Mediterranean Diet is getting a lot of attention for its health benefits. It’s shown to be helpful for preventing disease, for reducing inflammation, and for improving cognitive function. This diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with fish and lean protein. Olive oil is used for cooking and for dressings. Studies show that following this diet is linked to less chance of dementia. The more closely the diet is followed, the lower the risk of cognitive impairment.
The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is another diet that consistently shows lowered risk of dementia. Following this diet means focusing on specific food elements. Eat lots of foods with potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Strictly limit salt and fat. This diet also focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but its primary focus is what makes up the foods.
The MIND diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). This diet identifies certain foods that studies have linked to better cognitive function. MIND outlines daily and weekly amounts of foods to eat and limits other foods. Research shows that following the MIND diet can lead to better cognitive function later in life.
Overall, the most important factor in these studies is a well-balanced, healthy diet. Eating processed, refined foods is linked to dementia. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is connected to long-term brain power. Every time you choose a healthy food instead of a processed one, you are likely lowering your chance of dementia.