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How can cognitive health be protected?
Nutrition seems to influence language skills in middle age, which in turn is considered an important measure of mental performance (cognition). To protect cognition, it is important to eat enough vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes.
A study conducted by the University of Toronto found that eating well helps maintain verbal agility, which also suggests better mental performance. The results were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging".
Data from over 8,500 people were analyzed
In the current study, a sample of 8,574 Anglophone (English-speaking) people living in Canada between the ages of 45 and 85 years were examined for their verbal dexterity and in parallel the nutritional behavior of the test subjects was analyzed. Of the subjects examined, 1,126 people migrated to Canada at least 20 years ago and none of the participants suffered from dementia at the beginning of the study period.
Agility is an important indicator
Skill is an important measure of cognitive function. To test them, participants were asked to list as many words from a particular category as they could in one minute. In this way, language and executive function can be assessed, making it possible to identify cognitive impairments.
Grip strength also examined
If (older) people eat too little healthy food or generally eat too little, this can also lead to malnutrition. An examination of the grip strength was used here to assess malnutrition. Participants in the study, who had poor grip strength and / or high nutritional risk values, also showed a lower level of fluency, the research group reports. Previous research had shown that malnutrition is associated with a cognitive decline.
Immigrants showed a higher level of dexterity
Anglophone participants who had lived in Canada for at least 20 years had higher language skills than Canada-born people of the same age. The researchers believe that this effect could be partly due to a better cognitive reserve among immigrants.
Previous research into a large British cohort of people born in 1946 showed that those who emigrated from the United Kingdom had on average five points higher IQ than people of the same age as those in the United Kingdom remained, reports the team.
Bilingual people were more fluent
In addition, previous studies indicated that bilingual people have a lower incidence and delayed outbreak of dementia. Most studies that found an advantage of bilingualism did not take migration status into account. The current results indicate that this is an important omission, because even immigrants whose mother tongue is English had significantly higher levels of language skills than Anglophones born in Canada.
Protective effect of education
Consistent with other studies, younger people showed better cognitive function scores than older people. However, the relationship between cognitive impairment and advanced age can be weakened by factors in the cognitive reserve, such as a high level of education. The research group explains that people between the ages of 75 and 85 with a higher education (high school qualification) had a higher level of dexterity, which was comparable to the dexterity of ten years younger people without a higher school qualification.
Other factors influencing fluency
In addition, adults with stage 2 hypertension had lower levels of language proficiency. According to the researchers, this illustrates the importance of blood pressure management for brain health in the middle of life and beyond. In addition, both obesity and an increased body fat percentage are associated with poor speech skills.
Last but not least, participants in the study who consumed more vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes (such as lentils and beans) performed better overall in the tests of fluency. These results are in line with other research results, which found that a Mediterranean diet protects against cognitive decline, the researchers report.
More helps more
Any increase in the average daily fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with higher results in the language skills tests. The best results were achieved by participants who ate at least six servings of fruit and vegetables a day, the research team continued.
The results show how important it is to develop guidelines and preventive health practices to improve the quality of nutrition and to combat obesity and high blood pressure in middle-aged and older people, the research group explains. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Esme Fuller-Thomson, Z. Saab, KM Davison, S. Lamson Lin, V. Taler, K. Kobayashi, H. Tong: Nutrition, Immigration and Health Determinants are Linked to Verbal Fluency among Anglophone Adults in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), in Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging (Published June 1, 2020), Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging