15 February 2009

Caloric restrictions and improved cognition

Calorie intake and verbal memory
Dementia News (Alzheimer's Australia): 6 February 2009
Researchers from the University of Münster, Germany, investigated whether restricting calories in the diet could have an effect on verbal memory. They enlisted 50 volunteers (29 women and 21 men), who were approximately 60 years of age, to take part in the study.

The volunteers were divided into three groups. Members of one group decreased their intake of calories by 30%; those in the second group increased their unsaturated fatty acid intake by 20% (although their overall intake of fat remained the same); and the third group were controls so made no changes to their diets. Participants' verbal memory was tested at the beginning of the study, and again 12 weeks later.

After 12 weeks those who were in the calorie restriction group had significantly better verbal memory scores than they had achieved at the beginning of the study. There were no significant differences for members of the other two groups, suggesting that calorie restriction might be beneficial to verbal memory capability. Participants in the calorie restriction group also had lower levels of insulin in their blood after fasting than did members of the other groups, and high sensitivity to C-reactive protein, a protein that is involved in inflammation.

The researchers suggest possible reasons for their findings, principally that the improvement in insulin sensitivity and reduction in inflammatory activity might have led to increased synaptic plasticity (that is, function between brain cells), and the stimulation of pathways in the brain. This is an interesting study which might help to shed light on the known link between obesity and the risk of developing dementia.

The paper, Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans, is published in PNAS January 27, 2009 vol. 106 no. 4 1255-1260.

Adapted from Telegraph UK news story.

Review reading lists on Nutrition and Feeding, diet and nutrition in dementia

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