A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging from the Mayo Clinic and published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has found that people 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates 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.
This is consistent with what I’ve written about in past blogs, and it has been shown in past-published research on how a lower carbohydrate diet can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is further evidence that a lower-carbohydrate, lower sugar diet with higher proteins and higher fats is a healthy eating approach and will help reduce the risk for cognitive impairment.
The researchers tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 who 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 percent less likely to face cognitive impairment, and those who had the highest intake of protein had a reduced risk of 21 percent. 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.
“A high carbohydrate intake could be bad for you because carbohydrates impact your glucose and insulin metabolism,” Dr. Roberts, lead author and a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist, explains. “Sugar fuels the brain — so moderate intake is good. However, high levels of sugar may actually prevent the brain from using the sugar — similar to what we see with type 2 diabetes.” ( I disagree; moderate intake is not good for you. The brain works just as well on ketones and it is the preferred fuel for individuals with insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance.)
What does this mean to you? A low-carb diet like Atkins may be beneficial to you especially if you are at risk for Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. What else do you have to lose other than inches and pounds while preserving your brainpower and improving your quality of life?