How eating too much could double risk of memory loss
Consuming 2,100 to 6,000 calories can cause cognitive impairmentA low calorie diet could keep the mind sharp
Watch what you eat: Consuming 2,100 to 6,000 calories a day could trigger memory problems in elderly people, a new study has found (picture posed by models)
Overeating could more than double the risk of memory loss among elderly people, a study has found.
Researchers discovered that those who consumed more than 2,100 calories a day were far more likely to have 'mild cognitive impairment' than those who ate less.
The findings suggest that keeping to a low-calorie diet in old age could keep the mind sharp – and may even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists in the U.S. looked at the eating and drinking habits of 1,200 people aged 70 to 89 who did not have dementia, and gave them memory tests.
They found that 163 had developed memory problems – and the risk was more than twice as high for those who consumed the most calories.
The connection was clear even after the scientists had adjusted the data to account for other factors that could influence memory loss, such as educational levels or a history of strokes, diabetes or depression.
The researchers had divided the study participants into three groups: one included people consuming 600 to 1,500 calories a day, with another for those consuming 1,500 to 2,100, and a third for those consuming 2,100 to 6,000.
No significant difference was found between the two lower groups, which suggests that consuming fewer than 2,100 calories does not raise the risk of memory problems.
Study author Dr Yonas Geda, from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said the research linked high calorie intakes with mild cognitive impairment – the stage between the normal memory loss that comes with ageing, and the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease.
Worrying trend: A scan showing a healthy brain (above) and one (below) revealing the warning signs of Alzheimer's in red. Researchers are increasingly looking at the role played by diet in the onset of memory loss (file picture)
'We observed a dose-response pattern,
which means: the higher the number of calories consumed each day, the
higher the risk,' he said.
'Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age.'
The findings are yet to be published, but will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual conference in April.
Dr Marie Janson, of Alzheimer's
Research UK, said there is a 'desperate need' for more research into
possible risk factors for dementia. 'It would be interesting to see how
many of these people go on to develop dementia in the future, to see if
there is link to Alzheimer's disease,' she said.
'We know that age is one of the
greatest risk factors for dementia, but adopting a healthy lifestyle,
including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is beneficial in
protecting against dementia along with a number of other chronic
Researchers looking at the onset of
memory loss in old age are becoming increasingly interested in the role
played by diet and exercise.
A small-scale study two years ago
found that people with the genes associated with obesity tended to have
smaller brains, giving them an increased risk of dementia.
People who do regular physical
exercise and brain-training puzzles have also been found to stave off
the effects and retain a stronger memory.