Balanced diet associated with better cognitive function

Researchers reported in Life Metabolism that a balanced energy intake via diet is associated with better cognitive function than consuming a lot of energy.

Hui Chen (PhD), vice-dean of the department psychology and behavioral sciences at Zhejiang university in China, conducted a cohort study with colleagues to determine if the timing of meals had an effect on cognitive function.

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Chen and his colleagues used data from China Health and Nutrition Survey, 1997-2006. They included participants over 55 who had completed at least one cognitive test and dietary assessment. Participants were not allowed to participate if they had severe cognitive impairment, had high energy intake, or suffered from stroke, ischemic attack or diabetes at baseline.

An analysis was done on 3,342 people (mean age 62.2 years). One-third of those included lived in rural areas and 13.6% had completed high school.

The authors used a combination of weighing and a 24-hour, 3-day dietary recall to assess dietary intake at each wave. The Chinese Food Composition Table was used to calculate the average daily energy intake for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and night snack.

Six temporal patterns of energy intake were identified by the authors. Participants with a breakfast-dominant pattern had an average 49.5% total energy intake per day (TEI) starting at breakfast. Participants with a “lunch dominant” pattern had an average 64.3% TEI at lunch. Participants who had a “dinner dominant” pattern had 64.5 TEI. Participants with a “dinner-dominant” pattern had 36.8% TEI and a “breakfast-skipping”, 5.9% TEI.

Finally, those who had an even distribution of patterns were characterized by TEI evenly distributed among three main meals (28.5% to 36.3%, 33.8% and 33.8% for breakfast, lunch, and dinner respectively). From baseline to the end, 33% of participants maintained their patterns.

Cognitive function was assessed using the modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status. This included immediate and delayed word recalls as well as backward counting and serial-7 subtraction tests. The total cognitive score ranged from 0 to 27, with higher scores indicating higher cognitive function.

The authors analyzed the relationship between TPEIs and cognitive function using linear mixed model and adjusted for age and sex, residence and total energy.

Apart from the evenly distributed TPEIs all five patterns were associated to poorer cognitive function: breakfast dominant, 0.94; 95%CI, 1.37 to 0.51; lunch dominant; -1.18 to 0.69; dinner dominant; 0.97; 95%CI, 1.43 to 0.51; dinner rich, 1.05; -1.70 CI to 0.40; snack rich; -1.05 to 0.51; breakfast skipping; -1.32 to 0.99.

In addition, the breakfast-skipping pattern was significantly more likely to cause cognitive decline than the evenly distributed pattern (95%CI, 0.24 to 0.04). This effect was only significant for those younger than 65.

The authors stated that maintaining a balanced energy intake over three main meals was associated with better cognitive function than five different patterns.


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