A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shows that people 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates may have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar. The study found that people who consume more protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired.
The researchers tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 that provided information on what they ate during the previous year. Their cognitive function was evaluated by an expert panel of physicians, nurses, and neuropsychologists. Of participants, 940 had no signs of cognitive impairment and were asked to return for follow-up evaluations of their cognitive function. Four years into the study, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show mild cognitive impairment, problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.
Study participants who reported the highest carbohydrate intake were 1.9 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of carbohydrates. Participants with the highest sugar intake were 1.5 times more likely to experience mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of sugar. Participants whose diets were highest in fat—compared to the lowest fat intake—were 42% less likely to face cognitive impairment, and those who had the highest intake of protein had a reduced risk of 21%. When total fat and protein intake were taken into account, people with the highest carbohydrate intake were 3.6 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.