Could that festive baked Camembert and glass of red actually be doing you good? It’s not quite so simple, of course, but a new study suggests ‘responsible’ consumption of wine and cheese could help to protect brain function as you age.
The study’s authors, led by a team at Iowa State University, examined data from more than 1,500 UK adults to explore links between diet and age-related cognitive decline.
Cheese was by far the most protective food, said the researchers, after analysing dietary survey data and cognitive test results on participants, gathered over a 10-year period.
Red wine was highlighted for its links to improved brain function, found the research, published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Weekly consumption of lamb was also related to ‘long-term cognitive prowess’, but excessive salt was particularly bad for people already considered at-risk of Alzheimer’s, the study said.
Before you reach for that extra glass of Malbec this Christmas, however, the researchers cautioned that more studies were needed.
‘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, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down,’ said Auriel Willette, assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition at ISU.
‘Randomised clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.’
Data for the ISU-led study was drawn from the ‘UK Biobank’ and was based on dietary questionnaire responses and ‘fluid intelligence tests’, from both an initial assessment and two follow-ups, covering the decade between 2006 and 2016.
All of the 1,748 adults featured in the study were aged between 46 and 77 at the time it was completed.
A report published this year by the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care said research on dietary links was still emerging.
It nevertheless cited research suggesting a healthy overall diet and regular physical exercise were linked to lower dementia risk. Excessive alcohol consumption and obesity increased the risk, it said.
Brandon Klinedinst, a PhD student in neuroscience at ISU and who worked on the recent study, noted that genetic factors appear to offer some people more protection from Alzheimer’s specifically, but added, ‘I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether.’
He told Decanter, ‘We are currently already working on our next project, which is using the same “total diet” approach, but using a better questionnaire, and we are examining brain and neural outcomes this time.’