Changing an individual’s diet may alter brain health and study results suggest that a Mediterranean diet can positively support cognitive function.
Researchers note that specific plasma metabolites can be associated with global cognitive function scores regardless of race or ethnicity, according to a recent study. The results have been published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Our study has tremendous strengths in expanding the sample size and adding demographic characteristics over what previous research has done,” he said. Tamar Sofar, Ph.D., Director of the Basic Program for Biostatistics in Sleep Epidemiology, and a member of Division of sleep disorders and circadian clock In Brigham, in a press release.
Plasma metabolites are created when the body breaks down food. Through processes such as metabolic profiling, which scans for metabolites in blood samples, plasma metabolites can act as biomarkers associated with disease or health changes. Many metabolites come from the diet, which can be either positively or negatively related to cognitive function.
A previous study looked at metabolites in elderly Puerto Ricans. In this previous study, some metabolites were associated with a higher level of cognitive function. Sofer’s team used Mendelian Randomization (MR) analyzes to expand on the original Boston study. Soffer and colleagues set out to find a causal relationship between metabolites and cognitive function, as well as analyze the effects of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive function.
The team used MRI to compare diet and cognitive function among 2,222 Hispanic/Latino American adults from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Latino Study (HCHS/SOL), 1,365 European adults, and 478 African Americans who were Part of the risk of atherosclerosis. A Study in Communities (ARIC).
According to Sofer and colleagues, all studies showed that 6 metabolites were associated with lower global cognitive function, and 4 of the 6 were derived from sugar. Comparatively, the metabolite of beta-cryptoxanthin was associated with higher global cognitive function in the NHHS/SOL population. The fruit has been found to provide beta-cryptoxanthin.
“It is possible that these metabolites are biomarkers of a more direct relationship between diet and cognitive function,” said lead author Inat Granot Hershkowitz, PhD, who served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Soffer lab.
The Mediterranean diet was associated with higher levels of the cognitive enhancer beta-cryptoxanthin. It was also negatively associated with metabolites that reduce cognitive function.
This was a cross-sectional and observational study, which limits the ability to conclude a relationship between metabolic levels and cognitive function. The research team recommends that future studies evaluate the metabolite’s associations with cognitive function to see if a change in diet can improve cognitive health.
“While the causal effect seen in our study may be weak, repeated research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with better health outcomes, including cognitive health,” Sofer said in the press release. Our study further supports the importance of a healthy diet towards protecting cognitive function, consistent with race and ethnicity. It also shows that studies that begin with a focus on minorities can lead to insights that may be useful to other populations. We hope our findings will help people make specific dietary choices and improve their cognitive health.”
Diet can play a role in cognitive function across diverse races and ethnicities. EurekAlert! September 16, 2022. Accessed September 16, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/964717
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