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A new study suggests that diet has a significant impact on cognitive function as we age. We all want to stay mentally sharp as long as possible. So, it’s especially great to hear that the foods to help with that are cheese, lamb, and wine. Let’s take a closer look at what the authors of the study are recommending.


They tested the ability to think on the fly

Researchers from Iowa State University set out to evaluate the effects of food on cognitive health. They published the results in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and their study was the first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connected specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity. All of the wine and cheese lovers out there will be happy to read about their findings.

Cheese and wine
Can you think on the fly? And do you enjoy wine and cheese? © Profimedia

The researchers analysed data provided by the United Kingdom Biobank collected from 1787 adults aged 46 to 77. The participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) to establish a baseline between 2006 and 2010. Then they repeated it in 2 follow-up assessments from 2012 through 2013 and 2015 through 2016. The FIT analysis provides a snapshot of an individual’s ability to “think on the fly.” Participants also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline and through two follow-ups.

Cheese, wine, and lamb are on the menu

The food frequency questionnaire contained and tracked a wide variety of foods and drinks such as 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, champagne and liquor. The four most significant observations were the following:

● Cheese appeared to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, by a big margin.
● The daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function.
● Weekly consumption of lamb was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess. This didn’t apply to beef or other red meats.
● Excessive consumption of salt is bad, but only for individuals already at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lamb chops
Weekly consumption of lamb improves long-term cognitive prowess. © Profimedia

Responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily

“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. 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,” commented lead author Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

“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. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent 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,” added co-author Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate.