Metabolites from the Mediterranean diet may help prevent cognitive decline

Metabolites from the Mediterranean diet may help prevent cognitive decline

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A new study shows that metabolites from healthy diets may help protect brain health. Evan Jenner / Stocksy
  • Studies show that levels of certain metabolites in the blood, which are the intermediate or end products of human metabolism, are associated with cognitive function.
  • Metabolic levels in the blood are influenced by health status, genes, and environmental factors, and can vary across racial or ethnic groups.
  • A recent study described blood metabolites associated with cognitive function among different racial/ethnic groups.
  • Study results suggest that dietary habits can influence levels of these metabolites and thus cognitive performance, highlighting the importance of a healthy diet.

Individuals from racial or ethnic groups are often under-represented in research, which hampers the understanding of risk factors and the efficacy of disease treatments in these small groups.

A recent study published in the journal Alzheimer’s disease and dementia It was found that levels of the six plasma metabolites were associated with lower cognitive function in all racial/ethnic groups, and that levels of most of these blood metabolites were associated with adherence to a Mediterranean diet.

Talking to Medical news todaythe corresponding study author Tamar SofarThe professor at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital said:

“We have identified a few metabolites (small molecules) in the blood whose levels are associated with cognitive function, and they are all related to diet. While there are clinical trials showing that diet can affect cognitive function, identifying specific metabolites can help identify them. [a] Specific mechanism, specific components [a] The diet that is more important than others, and the vital signs to measure [the] Successful dietary changes.

However, Dr. Sofer added that “there is still work to be done to achieve these steps, but this is a good start, especially since results are pending in a few different studies, so the results are very reliable.”

Technological advances have made it possible to simultaneously identify hundreds of metabolites and identify metabolites associated with a diseased condition. For example, studies have shown that levels of plasma metabolites are associated with it cognitive function And the mental illness.

Characterization of metabolites associated with cognitive function can help researchers understand The mechanisms underlying the development of dementia. Furthermore, blood metabolites can be easily measured and can serve as biomarkers of cognitive function.

A previous study included large Puerto Rican subjects enrolled in Boston Puerto Rico Health Study (BPRHS) showed that levels of 13 blood metabolites They were related to global cognitive function, a composite measure of multiple cognitive abilities.

Metabolite levels are influenced by the interaction between genetic factors, health status and environmental factors, including diet and other lifestyle factors and Socio-economic factorswhich may differ between and even within ethnic/racial groups.

Because many factors influence blood metabolic levels, the study authors examined whether the BPRHS findings could be replicated in a different sample of individuals of Puerto Rican heritage in the United States. The researchers also investigated the generalizability of these findings to the Hispanic/Latino population and other ethnic groups.

Several metabolites identified by BPRHS have been shown to be affected by dietary habits. Thus, modifying an individual’s dietary habits can help maintain cognitive health.

Hence, the study authors also examined the causal role of blood metabolites and dietary habits in influencing cognitive function.

To assess the generalizability of findings from BPRHS to the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, the researchers used data from 2,222 adults enrolled in the United States. The Community Health Study/Hispanic Study (HCHS/SOL). HCHS/SOL is a longitudinal cohort study examining the health of individuals from different Hispanic/Latino backgrounds, including Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans.

Using blood samples from the HCHS/SOL group, the researchers were able to estimate the level of 11 out of the 13 metabolites evaluated by BPRHS.

They found that the trend of the effects of blood metabolites on cognitive function in HCHS/SOL Puerto Rico and all HCHS/SOL participants was similar to that observed in BPRHS.

Furthermore, there was a significant association between levels of some metabolites with global cognitive function in Puerto Rican HCHS/SOL and all HCHS/SOL participants.

Among these metabolites, higher levels of beta-cryptoxanthin and lower levels of gamma-CEHC glucuronide were associated with cognitive function in both HCHS/SOL Puerto Rico and all HCHS/SOL participants.

To examine the association between blood metabolites and cognitive function in other racial/ethnic groups, the researchers used data from 1,365 European Americans and 478 African Americans enrolled in the Atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study. The researchers then performed a meta-analysis to assess the relationship between blood metabolite levels and cognitive function using data from the BPRHS, HCHS/SOL, and ARIC studies.

The meta-analysis showed that six metabolites in the blood were associated with lower cognitive function in all racial/ethnic groups. Four of the six metabolites associated with overall cognitive function were sugars, including glucose, ribitol, mannose, and mannitol/sorbitol.

Because the previous analysis only showed an association between metabolites and cognitive function, the researchers performed an additional analysis to determine if any of the blood metabolites had a causal effect on cognitive function.

Of the six metabolites, the analysis revealed only a possible causal effect of ribitol on cognitive function.

The researchers also assessed the relationship between dietary habits, including adherence to the Mediterranean diet, intake of food groups (ie, intake of legumes, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, etc.) and blood metabolic levels.

They found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet or its component food groups was associated with many of the blood metabolites evaluated in the study.

Of note, the strongest association observed between beta-cryptoxanthin and fruit intake was in Puerto Rican HCHS/SOL and all HCHS/SOL participants.

Beta-cryptoxanthin is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties found in fruits and vegetables, and levels of beta-cryptoxanthin are associated with a reduced risk of insulin resistance and liver dysfunction.

The researchers then examined whether eating certain food groups had a causal effect on cognitive performance.

Although food groups played a causal role in cognitive performance, cognitive function had a much stronger causal effect on the intake of certain food groups. Cognitive function is related to socioeconomic status, which may mediate the effects of cognitive status on dietary habits.

In summary, these results indicate that dietary habits can affect cognitive performance by modulating blood metabolic levels.

The authors acknowledge that the study has some limitations. They noted that the BRPHS, HCHS/SOL, and ARIC studies used different methods for assessing cognitive function, and the causal effects of metabolites on cognitive function should be interpreted with caution.

Dr. Perminder Sachdevsaid, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales, who was not involved in this study MNT:

There are many challenges in interpreting these findings regarding the role of specific food groups and brain health. This is a cross-sectional study from which causal relationships cannot be drawn. Not only does nutrition affect brain health, but impaired cognitive function can also affect nutrition, suggesting a two-way relationship.”

Furthermore, Dr. Sachdev also noted that “blood metabolites have multiple determinants, and diet is only one of them. Genetic factors, health comorbidities, and lifestyle are all important. So direct attribution to diet is difficult.”

“[T]His study is a step in the right direction with regard to examining the body’s role of diet and metabolism for brain health. It provides suggestive evidence that adhering to a diet as good as the Mediterranean-style diet may be beneficial for brain health over a lifetime.”
– Dr. Perminder Sachdev

Dr Sachdev added that more work was needed.

“We need to better understand the plasma metabolite to know what determines blood levels before we begin to interpret such studies. We need longitudinal studies with multiple measurements in large samples, followed by intervention studies, so that a causal relationship can be established,” he said.

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