By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Investigators recently observed patients who consumed more tea, coffee, vegetables, beans, and fruits were less likely to develop dementia as they aged.

Using random population sampling, Greek researchers recruited 1,059 people (mean age = 73.1 years; 40.3% men; mean education = 8.2 years) to complete food questionnaires about diet makeup. The authors were searching for food or beverages that can trigger inflammation, which has been associated with dementia and cognitive decline. They gauged inflammation potential with a DII score, a tool that takes into consideration more than 40 food parameters with levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the blood.

Subjects were split into three groups: those with high scores (0.21 and above), those with medium scores, and those with low scores (-1.76 and lower). These scores can range from -8.87 to 7.98. The higher the score, the more inflammatory the diet. During a mean follow-up of 3.05 years, 62 subjects developed dementia (average scores were -0.06 vs. -0.70 for those who did not develop dementia). The authors calculated that for every one-point rise in this score, there was a 21% increase in dementia risk.

This was an observational study, which does not prove cause and effect, and the observation window was short. However, what is interesting about this work is how the authors offered specific serving sizes of anti-inflammatory foods consumed per week. Specifically, in the lowest score group, subjects consumed 20 servings of fruit, 19 of vegetables, four of beans or other legumes, and 11 of coffee or tea.

“Our results are getting us closer to characterizing and measuring the inflammatory potential of people’s diets. That, in turn, could help inform more tailored and precise dietary recommendations and other [tactics] to maintain cognitive health,” Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, PhD, study author, member of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a statement.

Diet as a major contributing factor to overall wellness is a frequent subject in Relias Media publications. In the December 2021 issue of Integrative Medicine Alert, there are two such articles — one on how a plant-based diet can affect menopausal hot flashes and another on how fish consumption might relate to cardiovascular disease. The upcoming December 15 issue of Internal Medicine Alert includes an evaluation of meat consumption and its effects on mental health.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Neurology Alert