Health: Cheese and wine can REDUCE risk of Alzheimer’s age-related cognitive decline, study shows

Eating cheese regularly, lamb once a week and indulging in a daily glass of red wine can help stave off Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline, a study concluded.

US researchers analysed the diet and cognitive powers of nearly 1,800 Britons over the period of a decade to identify foods that might have beneficial effects.

They found that the best way to reduce the risk of dementia is via a healthy lifestyle — and eating foods that increase the levels of proteins in the brain that protect it.

In contrast, they warned that risk can be increased — among those already susceptible to of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline — by eating too much salt.

Eating cheese regularly, lamb once a week and indulging in a daily glass of red wine can help to stave off age-related cognitive decline, a study has concluded. Pictured, cheese and wine

Eating cheese regularly, lamb once a week and indulging in a daily glass of red wine can help to stave off age-related cognitive decline, a study has concluded. Pictured, cheese and wine

Eating cheese regularly, lamb once a week and indulging in a daily glass of red wine can help to stave off age-related cognitive decline, a study has concluded. Pictured, cheese and wine

In their study, food scientist Auriel Willette of the Iowa State University and colleagues analysed the diets and cognitive abilities of 1,787 Britons — each aged between 46–77 — over the period of a decade.

Data was collected through the UK Biobank — a large-scale biomedical database containing detailed genetic and health information on half-a-million participants.

Each of the study’s participants was asked to detail their dietary intake — with consideration of foods including fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, cheeses, breads, cereals, tea, coffee and assorted alcoholic beverages.

The team also had each subject complete so-called Fluid Intelligence Tests — assessments which provide a snapshot of one’s ability to ‘think on the fly’ — three times between 2006 and 2016.

The team found that, of the various foods consumed by the participants, cheese had the strongest association with a resistance to age-related cognitive decline — even in those subjects in the later years of their life.

Daily consumption of alcohol — particularly red wine — and a weekly meal of lamb, but not other red meats, were also found to improve long-term cognitive prowess.

In contrast, the worst offender was found to be diets featuring high levels of salt — with the researchers warning individuals at risk of Alzheimer’s to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems as they age.

‘I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Dr Willette.

‘But perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,’ he continued.

‘While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomised clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.’

‘Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer’s, while other seem to be at greater risk,’ said paper author and neuroscientist Brandon Klinedinst, also of Iowa State.

‘That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether,’ he added.

‘Perhaps the silver bullet we’re looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory.’

Previous studies have suggested that low-fat cheeses like mozzarella, and certain other dairy products like yoghurt are the most beneficial to one’s cognitive health, while cream, cheddar and American processed cheese are the most detrimental. 

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink. 

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.

WHAT HAPPENS?

As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost. 

That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason. 

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual. 

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.

EARLY SYMPTOMS:

  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call 

LATER SYMPTOMS:

  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior 
  • Eventually lose ability to walk
  • May have problems eating 
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care   

 Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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