Study: More Wine, Cheese in Diet Can Reduce Cognitive Decline

December 22, 2020
Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Editor

A new study indicates cheese is the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems.

A new study suggests that diet may have a direct impact on older adults’ cognitive acuity and cheese was found to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, according to Iowa State University.

The study is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity. During the study, investigators analyzed data collected from 1787 aging adults between ages 46 years and 77 years.

Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of a touchscreen questionnaire at baseline and then in 2 follow-up assessments. The FIT analysis provides an in-time snapshot of an individual’s ability to adapt to situations quickly and “think on the fly,” according to the press release.

Participants also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline and through 2 follow-up assessments. The questionnaire asked participants about their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, oily fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine, and champagne and liquor.

The study’s key findings involved cheese, alcohol, and meats. Cheese, by far, was shown to have the most protective qualities against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life, according to the study. The daily consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, was also related to improvements in cognitive function, whereas weekly consumption of lamb was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess while other red meats did not.

“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 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,” said principal investigator Auriel Willette, MS, PhD, in a prepared statement. “While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.”

The authors also said that excessive consumption of salt is known to have negative effects, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.

“Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer, while others seem to be at greater risk,” said Brandon Klinedinst, a neuroscience PhD candidate, in a prepared statement. “That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether. 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.”

REFERENCE

ISU Study Indicates Diet May Help Reduce Cognitive Decline [news release]. Iowa State University; December 9, 2020. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.research.iastate.edu/news/isu-study-indicates-diet-may-help-reduce-cognitive-decline/