In the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, cheese and red wine may be two of our biggest allies. That’s according to a study led by researchers at Iowa State University and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
These researchers looked at “how diet is associated with long-term cognitive trajectories.” Or, how what you eat affects your cognitive abilities as you age. They did this by analyzing data collected from 1,787 British adults, ages 46 to 77, available through the UK Biobank—a massive collection of genetic and health information.
The study was spearheaded by principal investigator, Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State.
The paper honed in on participants who had taken cognitive assessments and answered dietary questions. Iowa State University explained that the latter included “their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, oily fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine and champagne and liquor.”
In the end, researchers said they had four big takeaways:
1) Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life;
2) The daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function;
3) Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess; and
4) Excessive consumption of salt is bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.
“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,” Willette said. “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.”
Klinedinst added, “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. 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.”
With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to prepare yourself a charcutewreath after all. Just be sure to include some lamb on the platter and pair it with red wine. Oh, and go easy on the salt.
Find the study here.