Older adults who follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of cognitive decline. according to research published in the newspaper Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. The study provides new evidence to better understand the biological mechanisms associated with the effects of diet on cognitive health in the aging population.
The study is led by Mireya Urpi-Sarda, an adjunct faculty member and member of the Biomarkers and Food and Food Metabolomics Research Group in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA-UB), Food and Nutrition Administration. Torribera Campus of the University of Barcelona and CIBER on Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES).
This European study, part of the Joint Program Initiative on Healthy Eating for Healthy Lives (JPI HDHL), was conducted over 12 years and included 840 people over 65 years of age (65 percent of whom were women) in Bourdeaux. and the Dijon regions of France.
Healthy eating and cognitive performance
According to Cristina Andres-Lacueva, UCL professor and leader of the CIBERFES group, “The study developed a dietary metabolomic index based on biomarkers derived from participants’ serum across food groups that comprise the Mediterranean diet. Once this index is known, its association with cognitive impairment is assessed.”
The study selected basal levels of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, gut microbiota-derived polyphenol metabolites, and other phytochemicals in serum for individual bioavailability as biomarkers. Some of these indicators have not only been recognized as indicative of the effects of the major food groups of the Mediterranean diet, but have also been found to be responsible for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The metabolome, or set of food-associated metabolites derived from the activity of the gut microbiota, was examined through large-scale quantitative metabolomic analysis of the serum of participants without dementia from the outset of the study. Cognitive impairment was assessed using five neuropsychological tests over a period of 12 years.
As a result, the study found a protective association between serum biomarker-based assessment of the Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline in older adults.
Biomarkers to study the benefits of diet
According to Merce Pallas, professor at the UB Neuroscience Institute (UBneuro), “the use of dietary pattern indices based on biomarkers of food intake is a step forward towards the use of more accurate and objective nutrition assessment methodologies that take into account important factors such as bioavailability.” .
Expert Alba Tor-Roca, first author of the study and CIBERFES investigator at UB, explains: “We found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet, assessed using a panel of dietary biomarkers, was inversely associated with long-term cognitive decline in older adults. These results support the use of these measures in long-term follow-up assessments to monitor the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet or other eating patterns and therefore guide personalized counseling in older age.”
The study was carried out in collaboration with teams from the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics, Faculty of Biology, and the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, UB. Also participating were teams from the University of Bordeaux and the IRAE center at the University of Clermont-Ferrand (France), King’s College London (UK), the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Parcelsus Medical University in Salzburg (Austria). .
Funding was received through the International Cooperative Program Action PCIN-2015-229, the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) and from the former Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO) through the Joint Program Initiative “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Life”. ”