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Red wine and cheese help prevent cognitive decline

Eating certain foods can help protect us from cognitive decline later in life, according to a new study from Iowa State University. The researchers found that cheese is linked to the greatest long-term protection against age-related cognitive issues, while a daily dose of red wine is associated with improvements in cognitive function.

“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,” said Professor Auriel Willette. 

“While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways.”

The researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank on 1,787 aging adults, who were between the ages of 46 and 77 by the conclusion of the study.

The participants were tested on three separate occasions across ten years from 2006 to 2016. The individuals completed the Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT), which provides a real-time overview of an individual’s ability to “think on the fly.”

The volunteers also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption during all three assessments. The Food Frequency Questionnaire was used to document the participants’ intake of a wide variety of foods including fruit, vegetables, fish, cheese, bread, tea, beer, wine, liquor, and various types of meat. 

The study revealed that cheese was, by far, the most protective food against age-related cognitive decline, even late in life. The daily consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive skills. The weekly consumption of lamb – but not other red meats – was also shown to improve long-term cognitive ability. 

“Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimers, while other seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether,” noted study co-author Brandon Klinedinst.

“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.”

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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