According to the United Nations (UN), the worldwide population of those aged 60 years and over will grow from 962 million in 2017 to 2.1 billion by 2050. Experts expect the rates of dementia to increase alongside this aging population.
As people age, they experience a form of chronic low-grade inflammation in their immune system. Experts have linked this kind of age-related inflammation to dementia and cognitive decline.
Research suggestsTrusted Source that different foods can influence rates of inflammation both acutely and chronically.
Some foods linked to high rates of inflammation include:
- processed foods
- unhealthy oils
- excess amounts of red meat
Some foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties include:
- nuts and seeds
- legumes, such as lentils
Being able to measure the inflammatory potential of different diets may help clinicians recommend dietary interventions for cognitive health.
However, until now, there has been little research into the effects of an inflammatory diet on cognitive health. Although some studies suggest that increased intakes of inflammatory diets have negative effects on cognitive ability and memory, others have found no linkTrusted Source.
Furthermore, the only prospective population-based study Trusted Source to have explored the issue so far included women alone. This limits the generalizability of its results.
Recently, researchers from the United States, Greece, and Ireland conducted a population
“There may be some potent nutritional tools in your home to help fight the inflammation that could contribute to brain aging,” said study author Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, Ph.D., of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece. Dr. Scarmeas is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Diet is a lifestyle factor you can modify, and it might play a role in combating inflammation, one of the biological pathways contributing to risk [of] dementia and cognitive impairment later in life.”
“There has been previous conflicting literature on associations between inflammatory aspects of diet and cognition. Our study adds to the scientific argument favoring a potentially important role of inflammation,” he told Medical News Today.
The study appears in the journal Neurology.
Aging and diet for Anti-inflammatory
The researchers selected individuals from the Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Aging and Diet, which is a population-based study that tracks the epidemiology of dementia and other neuropsychiatric conditions in the aging Greek population.
In this study, the researchers evaluate the participants every 3 years. So far, there have been two evaluations per person.
Altogether, the researchers selected 1,059 individuals for their analysis. None of the participants had dementia at their first evaluation, and they all provided dietary information on the main food groups they had consumed within the past month.
The researchers assessed the participants’ diets using the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), which is a tool that can assess the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet. It includes 45 food parameters, such as macronutrients and micronutrients, bioactive compounds, and spices.
The researchers split the participants into three equal groups according to how inflammatory their diets for Anti-inflammatory were:
- The first group, which had the least inflammatory diets, had DII scores ranging from -5.83 to -1.76.
- The second group had DII scores of between -1.76 and 0.21.
- The third group, which had the most inflammatory diets and had scores of between 0.21 and 6.01.
Per week, those with the most anti-inflammatory diets consumed an average of:
- 20 servings of fruit
- 19 servings of vegetables
- 4 servings of beans and other legumes
- 11 servings of coffee or tea
Meanwhile but those with the most inflammatory diets consumed an average of:
- 9 fruit servings per week
- 10 vegetable servings per week
- 2 legume servings per week
- 9 coffee and tea servings per week
Among the 1,059 individuals the researchers included in the analyses, 62 developed dementia during the 3-year follow-up period.
The researchers found that those with the most inflammatory diets were 3.43 times more likely than those with the least inflammatory diets to develop dementia.