Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition where older individuals experience minor cognitive issues such as problems with memory, language, or thinking. While the condition is severe enough to see a noticeable cognitive difference through a test, it doesn’t really interfere with everyday life. A recent study has found that in order to avoid this condition, older people should not consume a large amount of calories. But does it really come down to calories, or the content of the actual food items themselves?
The study, released by the American Academy of Neurology, involved 1,233 people ages 70 to 90. None of the participants had dementia, but 163 of them did have mild cognitive impairment. After conducting a questionnaire to find their daily calorie intake, researchers divided participants into three groups: those who consumed 600-1526 calories daily, those consuming 1527-2142 daily, and those consuming more than 2,143 daily.
What lead researcher Yonas Geda and his team found was that those who consumed more than 2,143 calories a day doubled their risk of mild cognitive impairment compared to those consuming less than 1,500 calories daily. Generally, with the consumption of more calories came an increased risk in mild cognitive impairment.
While the research provides a potential relationship between calorie intake and mild cognitive impairment, there is no way to conclude what exactly is causing MCI to occur since the researchers ignored diet quality and exercise.
Given the average American diet, it is quite possible that with increased consumption of food also came increased consumption of harmful ingredients. Most of the food supply is riddled with health-damaging substances like high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, artificial colors, pesticides, and so much more. Although previous findings point to memory impairment being caused by excess weight, there is certainly a connection between quality of diet and all aspects of health, including cognitive function.
Reducing calorie consumption may work in slowing or halting the progression of MCI, but know that there are a number of simple dietary changes you can make to promote cognition and memory. Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish or walnuts have been shown to promote the normal functioning of neurons. In addition, a powerful phytochemical and antioxidant known as quercetin, found in foods like apples and blueberries, proves to be useful in preventing Alzheimer’s as well as rapid aging.
Another study from Australia found that B vitamins support cognitive brain function by halving the rate of brain shrinkage – a physical symptom connected with dementia and memory loss in older individuals. Similar to the findings of previous research, individuals in the study who supplemented with vitamin B12 and folic acid for two years scored better in memory tests than those who did not take the vitamins.