A healthy diet combined with staying active can reduce cognitive decline, according to researchers from Sweden and China.
They found that following the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP), which is high in non-root vegetables, fish, poultry and fruit was found to reduce cognitive decline.
“An active lifestyle may reinforce the protective effect of a healthy diet on cognitive function.”
In addition, they found this reduction was improved when people in their study stayed mentally, physically and socially active.
The researchers noted that a healthy diet and leisure activity had previously been independently associated with reduced dementia risk, but their joint effect on cognitive decline had been unknown.
To examine whether there was an impact, they studied 2,223 dementia free older adults aged 60 and over who were followed for six years.
“There are things we can all do now to help lower our chances of developing the condition”
The participants had an initial Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score of 27 or over and were tested again during each follow up. They also completed a detailed lifestyle questionnaire.
The researchers found moderate-to-high adherence to NPDP was associated with less cognitive decline compared to the low adherence.
In joint effect analysis, this association became stronger when combined with moderate-to-intense physical, mental, or social activities.
The study authors said: “An active lifestyle strengthened the protective effect of moderate-to-high adherence to NPDP on cognitive function by more than two times, and further lowered the risk of MMSE decline to ≤24 by 30%.”
Based on their findings, they stated: “An active lifestyle may reinforce the protective effect of a healthy diet on cognitive function.”
The new research was presented last week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Chicago.
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The study was carried out by researchers from Tianjin Medical University and the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University.
Commenting, Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “In lieu of there being no way to cure, slow down or treat dementia, prevention is king.
Dr Doug Brown
Dr Brown noted that diet and staying active were already seen as “key considerations” when it comes to limiting the risk of developing dementia.
But he highlighted that the new study “went a step further and found that combining both activities may reduce cognitive decline further”.
“These results support the findings of our own funded research into how what we eat can reduce the risk of developing problems with memory and thinking,” he said.
He added: “Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, but there are things we can all do now to help lower our chances of developing the condition, including healthy eating and keeping our body and mind active.”