Healthy Diet Reduces Dementia Risk and Slows The Pace of Aging

A newly published study in the medical journal The Annals of Neurology  from the Columbia University School of Public Health and Aging Center supports the findings of previous research that a healthy diet is associated with a slower pace of aging and a reduced risk of developing dementia. 10.1002/ana.26900

It has long been felt that those who ate healthier diets slowed down the process of biological aging. In this study they specifically showed that a healthier diet makes the development of dementia less likely.

Daniel Belsky, PhD, senior author of the study explains, “Much attention to nutrition in dementia research focuses on the way specific nutrients affect the brain. We tested the hypothesis that a healthy diet protects against dementia by slowing down the body’s overall pace of biological aging.”

For this study over 1,600 participants 60 years or older who were free of dementia were evaluated. The study data began to be measured in 1991, and the participants were evaluated every 4 to 7 years.

At each follow-up visit,  a physical examination was performed , a lifestyle-related questionnaire was reviewed ,neurocognitive testing was done and blood samples were taken.

Over the years 140 of the 1,644 participants had developed dementia by the end of the study.

Yian Gu, PhD, the other senior author of the study, stated that “We have some strong evidence that a healthy diet can protect against dementia, but the mechanism of this protection is not well understood.”

It has long been felt  based on past research, that diet and dementia risk were related and that a poor diet accelerated the pace of biological aging, whereas a healthier diet slowed it down. This research further attempts to investigate just how the biologic clock can be measured. Dr Belsky says, “Testing the hypothesis that multi-system biological aging is a mechanism of underlying diet-dementia associations was the logical next step”. The research determined that adhering to the MIND diet (Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) slowed the pace of aging and reduced dementia and overall mortality.

It is hoped that one of the results of this study, and more like it, will be that  practical solutions can be offered to people to inform them of the methods and advice for dementia prevention that have been scientifically validated

Another of the study  authors Aline Thomas, PhD, explains, “A portion of the diet-dementia association remains unexplained, therefore we believe that continued investigation of brain-specific mechanisms in well-designed mediation studies is warranted.” Lead author Dr Belsky says .”We suggest that additional observational studies be conducted to investigate direct associations of nutrients with brain aging, and if our observations are also confirmed in more diverse populations, monitoring biological aging, may indeed, inform dementia prevention”.

In 2021 the NIEHS-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences produced a publication entitled ,

Healthy Diet holds key to slowing biological aging 

“We wanted to test whether following a healthy diet could lower a person’s biological age,” Kresovich explained. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

They based this report on a study published in  the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, saying that the study provides additional evidence that healthy nutritional choices leads to positive health effects, and lowers a person’s biological age.

Eating patterns and measures of biological age

Some studies investigating the relationship between diet and biological age have focused on specific foods, such as the choices between, meat, poultry or fish. This study found that a well rounded diet of high quality nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a diet also low in sugars and red meat, had an

anti-aging the effect. The lead researcher involved,  Dr Taylor stated, “We also discovered that the beneficial effects of eating a healthy diet were more robust among women who did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for exercise. This suggests that improving diet quality may be particularly useful for those with lower levels of physical activity.”

This distinction regarding those people who are physically inactive does show that despite not taking advantage of the benefits of exercise a person will still get alot of health benefit from a healthy diet.

It should be noted however that physical activity has been shown in many studies to be key to slowing down aging, and ideally one should not focus only on diet as the only anti-aging intervention.

A  review artcile published by the national Library of Medicine /National Center for  Biotechnology Information is entitled, Exercise Attenuates the Major Hallmarks of Aging


They say regular exercise has multisystem anti-aging effects . and they outline changes related to the following :

Aging,  cardiorespiratory fitness :

Scientific research finds that a aging skeletal muscles have a low capacity to use O2. Exercise can help lessen this decline.

Aging and muscle function : Muscle mass usually starts to decline after 30 years of age and on average 40% of muscle mass is lost by the age of 80.

Frailty and disability: As a consequence of the aging effects on the cardiorespiratory system and muscle and nervous sytem decline one may develop “frailty syndrome”, which one can avoid with exercise.

According to the National Cancer Institute the risk of developing  many types of cancer is reduced by regularly physical activity.

How might physical activity be linked to reduced risks of cancer?

Exercise has many biological effects on the body including:
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