Alzheimer's Association International Conference

Alzheimer's Association International Conference

August 02, 2016
1 min read

Mental stimulation may counteract negative effects of Western diet on cognition

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An association between poor diet and cognitive decline was found only in individuals with low indicators of cognitive reserve, according to data presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The findings indicate that older adults with education, stimulating work and active social lives are protected from age-related cognitive decline even if they consume a Western diet, Matthew Parrott, PhD, from Baycrest Health Sciences, and colleagues said.

"Although diet quality and indicators of cognitive reserve have been associated with cognitive function in separate studies, there is little understanding of how the combination of these factors may influence cognitive function," the researchers stated. "A mentally stimulating environment has been shown to abolish the adverse impact of poor diet quality on memory in laboratory animals."

They analyzed food frequency questionnaire responses from 351 older adults along with cognitive function determined by Modified Mini-Mental State Examination and cognitive reserve determined by occupational complexity, social engagement and educational attainment over 3 years. Parrott and colleagues defined a poor diet as a Western diet, with "consumption of red and processed meats, white bread, potatoes, pre-packaged foods and sweets."

Results showed an adverse relationship between Western diet and cognitive decline in participants with low cognitive reserve (P = .003) but not in individuals with high cognitive reserve (P = .546).

"Our results show the role higher educational attainment, mentally stimulating work and social engagement can play in protecting your brain from cognitive decline, counteracting some negative effects of an unhealthy diet," Parrott said in a press release. "This adds to the growing body of evidence showing how various lifestyle factors may combine to increase or protect against vulnerability to Alzheimer's disease." – by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes


Parrott M, et al. Indicators of cognitive reserve moderate the adverse relationship between poor diet quality and cognitive decline in independent older adults: The Nuage Study. Presented at: Alzheimer’s Association International Conference; July 24-28, 2016; Toronto.

Disclosures: Healio Internal Medicine could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.