A new study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic has found that older adults who ate a high-calorie diet (2,142.5 to 6,000 calories per day) had more than double the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) of those who ate 1,526 calories per day or less.
The study, by Yonas E. Geda, M.D., MSc, a neurologist and psychiatrist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, but has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. It was previewed by the Mayo Clinic on February 7, 2012 in its online Mayo Clinic News Blog.
The Mayo Clinic researchers were studying mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a stage that precedes and can be an early sign of dementia. With a recent expansion in the definition of MCI as part of new Guidelines for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s, researchers have focused increasing attention on MCI. It is thought that the presence of MCI may predict that a person may be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
The Mayo Clinic team examined the relationship between diet and MCI in a study including 1,233 people aged between 70 and 89. None of the participants had dementia, but 163 had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The patients were divided into three groups by the number of calories they reported consuming daily. The low calorie intake group consumed 600 to 1,526 calories per day; the middle calorie group consumed 1,526 to 2,142.5 calories per day; and the high calorie group consumed 2,142.5 to 6,000 calories per day. The incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the three groups was compared.
The results showed no difference in the extent of MCI in the low and middle calorie groups. However, the high calorie intake group — who consumed 2,143 or more calories per day — had more than double the incidence of MCI compared to those in the low calorie group, who consumed 1,526 calories per day or less.
In addition, the researchers found a “dose-response pattern,” in that the likelihood of MCI increased as calorie consumption increased.
“We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means; the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of mild cognitive impairment,” study author Dr. Yonas E. Geda told the Mayo Clinic News Blog.
“The results were the same after adjusting for history of stroke, diabetes, amount of education and other factors that can affect risk of memory loss,” according to the Mayo Clinic News Blog.
While the study showed a clear association between high calorie intake and MCI, it does not prove that a high calorie diet causes MCI. It could be that MCI leads people to eat more food, or that another factor may be causing the increase in both calorie intake and MCI.
But Dr Geda did suggest, “Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age.” After all, “what’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” he said.
This is consistent with other studies that have shown that a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise, correlates with lowered risk of developing dementia.
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- Diet & Nutrition: Physical Wellness;
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- Examples of Healthy Aging: Stories of Inspiring Seniors.
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