Eating a diet that’s rich in carbohydrates – such as sweets, soft drinks, bread, pasta and potatoes – is a direct cause of mild dementia and memory loss as we get older. The foods increase the risk fourfold, while sugars are the second greatest cause of cognitive impairment, often seen as a forerunner to severe dementia and Alzheimer’s.
A diet that’s high in fats and protein is far less likely to cause cognitive decline, say researchers from the Mayo Clinic.
Their findings are some of the most emphatic ever made about diet and mental sharpness, and the 400 per cent association is as close as we’ll get to establishing that carbohydrates are definitely a cause.
The researchers reckon carbohydrates interfere with the body’s ability to metabolise glucose and insulin, which helps ‘feed’ the brain. The same can happen when we eat too much sugar.
The carbohydrate link was discovered when the researchers analysed the lifestyle and diets of 1,230 people aged from 70 to 89 years. They discovered that those who ate the most carbohydrates were 3.6 times more likely to suffer mild cognitive decline, which included problems with memory, language, thinking and judgement.
Those who ate more fats were 42 per cent less likely to suffer cognitive decline, while those with a high-protein diet had the lowest risk of 21 per cent.
(Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2012; publication date to be announced).