Mediterranean diet linked to reduced neurodegeneration in elderly Chinese adults

By Hazel Tang

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers find adherence to the Mediterranean diet linked to a decrease in the risk of cognitive impairment among elderly Chinese individuals © Getty Images
Researchers find adherence to the Mediterranean diet linked to a decrease in the risk of cognitive impairment among elderly Chinese individuals © Getty Images

Related tags Mediterranean diet Nutrition Health claims Research Food cognitive impairment

Adherence to the Mediterranean diet, specifically a higher intake of fruits and nuts, has been linked to a notable decrease in the risk of cognitive impairment among elderly Chinese individuals.

This is according to a three-year prospective cohort study involving 6411 participants with normal cognitive function, set out to address the causal relationship between the Chinese version of the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet (cMIND) and cognitive functions.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet has emerged as a health-promoting regimen celebrated for its abundance of antioxidant-rich, plant-based elements.

This dietary approach emphasises the consumption of plant-based foods, with a particular focus on berries and green leafy vegetables, while minimising the intake of animal-based and high-saturated fat foods. Earlier studies suggested the potential of the MIND diet in mitigating cognitive impairment.

The positive impact of cMIND diet on cognitive function

Previously, Chinese researchers uncovered a significant correlation between the cMIND diet and favourable cognitive function in the Chinese population. The present study confirms the finding.

Researchers attribute the reduction in risk to the diverse neuroprotective elements within the cMIND diet, emphasising the combined effects of various food constituents rather than relying on the impact of any individual item.

They arrived at this conclusion by instructing participants to complete a baseline food frequency questionnaire, gauging their cMIND diet scores, and employing the Chinese version of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) to evaluate cognitive function.

The cMIND diet encompasses 12 components, including staple food composition, quantity, fresh vegetables, mushrooms or algae, fresh fruits, fish, cooking oil, soybeans, nuts, garlic, tea, and sugar.

Participants were assigned scores based on the frequency of consumption, categorised as "almost every day," "≥1 time/week," "≥1 time/month," "occasionally," or "rarely or never," with corresponding scores of 0, 0.5, or 1.

Notably, items with higher intake frequency, such as fresh vegetables, mushrooms or algae, fresh fruits, fish, cooking oil, soybeans, nuts, garlic, and tea, were awarded a score of 1.

Conversely, sugar received a reduced score for higher intake. In addition, when whole grains constituted the staple food or the intake of staple food fell within the range of 250 g–400 g, a score of 1 was assigned. The cumulative assessment of cMIND scores (cMINDDS) ranges from 0 to 12.

The MMSE, comprising 13 items with a total score ranging from 0 to 30, was adjusted based on participants' educational background. A cut-off points of 18, 20, and 24 was applied for individuals with no formal education, 1–6 years of education, and >6 years of education, respectively, to define cognitive impairment.

Characteristics of participants might influence outcomes

The current study reveals a mean dietary score of 4.7 ± 1.5, highlighting the favourable impact of the cMIND dietary pattern on cognitive function among older Chinese individuals.

Simultaneously, an association was established between the consumption of fresh fruits (OR = 0.77, 95% CI [0.66, 0.89], p​ = 0.001) and nuts (OR = 0.70, 95% CI [0.58, 0.86], p​ = 0.001) and a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.

The study also identifies characteristics associated with higher mean dietary scores, including being male, having higher education levels, being married, achieving economic independence, being professionally employed, living with family, engaging in regular exercise, and consuming higher quantities of vitamins A, C, and E.

Researchers suggest that these sample characteristics could significantly influence outcomes in trials focusing on lifestyle and cognition. Individuals at a higher risk of cognitive decline may require comprehensive measures beyond dietary intervention.

Moreover, the study highlights an ethnic difference, as previous research primarily involved Caucasians of European descent, while this study includes Chinese individuals, potentially contributing to the observed discrepancies in outcomes.

Additionally, the fact that some participants had already adopted the cMIND diet before the study suggests that a three-year MIND diet regimen might be insufficient to significantly reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.

Nonetheless, researchers underscore the importance of dietary diversity as a modifiable behavioral factor in addressing cognitive impairment.

“Our findings indicate that greater adherence to the cMIND diet is significantly associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment among older Chinese individuals. Adopting the cMIND diet could be a viable strategy to mitigate cognitive decline in older adults.”​ Researchers wrote.

 

Source: The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging

Association of adherence to the Chinese version of the MIND diet with reduced cognitive decline in older Chinese individuals: Analysis of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1279770723025678

Authors: Wenjian Lin, Xiaoyu Zhao, and Xueyuan Liu

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