Can Your Diet Help Prevent Cognitive Decline?

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Nutrition

Various studies have touted the benefits of everything from crosswords to video games to exercise when it comes to keeping your mental muscles strong. However, recent research has now lifted the lid on the potential game-changing effects of a healthy diet on your dynamite thinking. Ultimately, feasting on nourishing fare right now could bolster your brain against cognitive decline in the long run.

Meal-Mind Connection: Inside the Latest Research

The study, which was presented at Nutrition 24, collected data from a group of more than 3 000 people over 70 years. The participants were all born in the same month of the same year (March 1946) and were enrolled as kids into the Medical Research Council’s National Survey of Health and Development in the UK.

READ MORE: New Study: How Your Diet Could Be Hurting Your Memory, Mood and Bright Ideas

During the next seven decades, participants in the survey completed regular questionnaires and underwent tests on their general health, cognition and diet among a variety of other factors. Researchers also assessed their dietary intake and measured their cognitive ability at various stages.

To properly understand the link between diet and cognitive ability, researchers employed the Healthy Eating Index, which was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and Health Nutrition Service. Essentially think of this as a scoring system for your meals. Eating foods like fruits, veggies, protein, whole grains, seafood and dairy increases the score, while feasting on refined grains, salt, saturated fat and sugar will subtract from your points.

The Findings

The results? Those who scored poorly on the index retained, on average, lower cognitive abilities than those topping the “leaderboards”. Additionally, those who fuelled up on a high-quality diet in their childhood were more likely to adopt healthy eating patterns in their adult years.

READ MORE: Fuel or Fiction: Should You Always Eat Before You Exercise?

3 More Ways to Sharpen Your Mind

Your long-term mental resilience isn’t just down to what’s on your plate. Various studies have looked into a myriad of activities that might sharpen your mind, and there are plenty to choose from if you want to keep your brain in top shape as you age. 

Let’s take a look at a few more ways you can ramp up your cognitive ability:

1. Hit the Gym

Regular runs, lifting, padel, you name it… have been shown to keep your brain healthy and slash your risk of dementia. Physical activity may benefit your brain cells by increasing blood flow to your brain tissue. Aim for sessions of around 45 to 60 minutes as research has shown this is the sweet spot for brain-boosting benefits.

2. Kick the Nicotine Habit

Studies have shown that smoking cigs can spike your risk of dementia, especially if you’re still puffing away after retirement. Struggling to quit? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to kicking the habit for good.

READ MORE: This Quick Snack Could Make You a Faster Runner and Reduce Fatigue

3. Play a Videogame

A 2020 review looked at how board games, videogames and virtual reality games might help those with early and middle-stage dementia. Researchers found that regular sessions could boost cognitive skills such as short-term memory, reaction times, logical reasoning, problem-solving and communication. And make it a multiplayer game because socialising has been shown to help prevent cognitive decline, too. 

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