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Healthy Diet Linked To Slower Aging And Reduced Risk Of Dementia

1 month, 1 week ago

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Posted on Mar 14, 2024, 5 p.m.

A healthier diet is associated with a slower pace of aging and a reduced risk for developing dementia according to a study recently published in the Annal of Neurology from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and The Robert Butler Columbia Again Center. The paper describes how the diet dementia association was at least partially facilitated by multi-system processes of aging. 

"Much attention to nutrition in dementia research focuses on the way specific nutrients affect the brain," said Daniel Belsky, PhD., associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia School of Public Health and the Columbia Aging Center, and a senior author of the study. "We tested the hypothesis that a healthy diet protects against dementia by slowing down the body's overall pace of biological aging."

For this study, data was utilized from the second generation of the Framingham Heart Study, the Offspring Cohort. The 1,644 participants included in the study were 60+ years old, free of dementia, and had available dietary, epigenetic, and follow-up data for 9 examinations every 4 to 7 years to have a physical examination and collect other data such as lifestyle-related questionnaires, blood samples, and neurocognitive testing. The analysis revealed that 140 of the participants developed dementia. 

"We have some strong evidence that a healthy diet can protect against dementia," said Yian Gu, Ph.D., associate professor of Neurological Sciences at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the other senior author of the study, "But the mechanism of this protection is not well understood." Past research linked both diet and dementia risk to an accelerated pace of biological aging.

"Testing the hypothesis that multi-system biological aging is a mechanism of underlying diet-dementia associations was the logical next step," explained Belsky.

The DunedinPACE epigenetic clock was used to measure the pace of aging. According to the researchers, a higher adherence to the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet (MIND Diet) was found to slow the pace of aging and reduce the risk for dementia and mortality as measured by DunedinPACE. Additionally, slower DunedinPACE accounted for 27% of the diet-dementia association and 57% of the diet-mortality association. 

"Our findings suggest that slower pace of aging mediates part of the relationship of healthy diet with reduced dementia risk, and therefore, monitoring pace of aging may inform dementia prevention," said first author Aline Thomas, Ph.D., a Postdoc at the Columbia Department of Neurology and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain. "However, a portion of the diet-dementia association remains unexplained, therefore we believe that continued investigation of brain-specific mechanisms in well-designed mediation studies is warranted."

"We suggest that additional observational studies be conducted to investigate direct associations of nutrients with brain aging, and if our observations are also confirmed in more diverse populations, monitoring biological aging, may indeed, inform dementia prevention," noted Belsky.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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References/Sources/Materials provided by:

https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/news/study-shows-healthy-diet-linked-slower-pace-aging-reduced-dementia-risk

https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ana.26900

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