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Lower Carb, Lower Sugar Diet Reduces Cognitive Impairment Risk

October 23, 2012

A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging from the Mayo Clinic and published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has found that people 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar. The study found that people who consume more protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired.
The researchers tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 who provided information on what they ate during the previous year. Their cognitive function was evaluated by an expert panel of physicians, nurses and neuropsychologists. Of participants, 940 had no signs of cognitive impairment and were asked to return for follow-up evaluations of their cognitive function.  Four years into the study, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show mild cognitive impairment, problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.
Study participants who reported the highest carbohydrate intake were 1.9 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of carbohydrates. Participants with the highest sugar intake were 1.5 times more likely to experience mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of sugar. Participants whose diets were highest in fat — compared to the lowest fat intake— were 42% less likely to face cognitive impairment, and those who had the highest intake of protein had a reduced risk of 21%. When total fat and protein intake were taken into account, people with the highest carbohydrate intake were 3.6 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.
"This is consistent with what we've seen in past published research on how a lower carbohydrate diet can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's," said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. "This is further evidence that a lower-carbohydrate, lower sugar diet with higher proteins and higher fats is a healthy eating approach and will help reduce the risk for cognitive impairment." 
In related Atkins news, the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation, created to elevate the role of nutrition in health and lifestyle, recently announced that it had granted almost $29 million since 2003 to 42 research programs, eight university endowed chairs and 13 projects and awards related to its mission of examine the role that metabolism and nutrition play in disease and health issues. 
"Research funded by foundations and other entities will continue to drive innovation and discoveries in the health sciences, serving as the catalyst for change for in our society,” said Dr. Abby Bloch, executive director of Programs and Research, Atkins Foundation. "Our foundation is committed to moving independent research and ultimately healthy living forward.”

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