According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 50 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Because there is no known cure, researchers around the world are wondering what can be done to prevent dementia from occurring in the first place, or how to slow its effects once it has begun.
Like many aspects of our health, diet may provide an answer.
Finnish researchers have found that intake of two sources of choline – meats and eggs – may reduce the risk of dementia by 28 percent.
Groups who consumed higher quantities of these foods, which are rich in phosphatidylcholine, may be “front loading” their choline levels, which are necessary for the brain to work properly. In fact, one of the commonly prescribed drugs for Alzheimer’s is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, blocking an enzyme that would otherwise consume choline.
The researchers in this study also note that “moderate egg intake has been associated with better cognitive performance in observational studies,” and that it may be due to the choline content of the eggs.
What is interesting about this work is that it shows the importance of food nutrients from well-rounded sources. While meats and eggs have regained some popularity in recent years due to low-carb and keto diets, there are still many people who shy away from these sources of incredible nutrients because of worries about fat or cholesterol.
It’s true that processed meats are not helpful, so limiting intake of sausages, bacon, and the like is a good idea. However, wholesome foods that contribute to the protein needs of body and mind, can – and should – be a part of a daily diet.
Ylilauri MPT, Voutilainen S, Lönnroos E, et al. Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Jul 30. pii: nqz148.
BACKGROUND: Moderate egg intake has been associated with better cognitive performance in observational studies. This association may be due to the rich content of choline, especially phosphatidylcholine, in eggs because choline has been suggested to have a role in the prevention of cognitive decline.
OBJECTIVES: We investigated the associations of dietary choline intake with the risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance in middle-aged and older men in the prospective, population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.
METHODS: A population-based sample of 2497 dementia-free men aged 42-60 y was examined in 1984-1989. A subset of 482 men completed 5 different cognitive performance tests 4 y later. Dementia and Alzheimer disease diagnoses were retrieved from Finnish health registers. Dietary intakes were assessed with the use of 4-d food records at baseline. Cox regression and ANCOVA were used for the analyses. All analyses were also stratified by the apolipoprotein E phenotype (APOE-ε4 compared with other phenotypes). These data were available for 1259 men.
RESULTS: The mean ± SD total choline intake was 431 ± 88 mg/d, of which 188 ± 63 mg/d was phosphatidylcholine. During a 21.9-y follow-up, 337 men were diagnosed with dementia. Those in the highest compared with the lowest phosphatidylcholine intake quartile had 28% (95% CI: 1%, 48%; P-trend = 0.02 across quartiles) lower multivariable-adjusted risk of incident dementia. Total choline intake had no association with the risk of incident dementia. However, both total choline and phosphatidylcholine intakes were associated with better performance in cognitive tests assessing frontal and temporal lobe functioning. For example, higher intakes were associated with better performance in verbal fluency and memory functions. The APOE phenotype had little or no impact on the associations.
CONCLUSION: Higher phosphatidylcholine intake was associated with lower risk of incident dementia and better cognitive performance in men in eastern Finland. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03221127.
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