A Potential Change in Your Diet You May Actually Like

A Potential Change in Your Diet You May Actually Like

By Jim Windell

           Would you like to get more cheese and wine in your diet? And would you like to have a perfect rationalization for doing that?  

           Of course, you would.

           A new study may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Or if not, at least what you wish the doctor would order.

           A recent study from Iowa State University research finds that the food we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years. More importantly, the findings, which were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, show that cheese protected against age-related cognitive problems and red wine was related to improvements in cognitive function. In addition, the study spearheaded by principal investigator, Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State, is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity.

           Willette and Klinedinst and their team analyzed data collected from 1,787 aging adults (from 46 to 77 years of age) in the United Kingdom through the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half-a-million UK participants.

           The participants in this study completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of a touchscreen questionnaire at baseline (compiled between 2006 and 2010) and then in two follow-up assessments (conducted from 2012 through 2013 and again between 2015 and 2016). The FIT analysis provides a snapshot of an individual's ability to "think on the fly." Furthermore, the participants also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline and through two follow-up assessments. The Food Frequency Questionnaire asked participants about their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, oily fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine and champaigne and liquor.

           Several significant findings came out of the study. First, it was found that cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life. Second, the daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function. Third, the weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess. And fourth, the excessive consumption of salt is bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer's Disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.

          Dr. Willette commented that she was pleasantly surprised by the results suggesting that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily “…[A]re not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down."

           Brandon Klinedinst added, "Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimers, while other seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether. Perhaps the silver bullet we're looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer's and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory."

           To read the original article, find it at:

Brandon S. Klinedinst, Scott T. Le, Brittany Larsen, Colleen Pappas, Nathan J. Hoth, Amy Pollpeter, Qian Wang, Yueying Wang, Shan Yu, Li Wang, Karin Allenspach, Jonathan P. Mochel, David A. Bennett, Auriel A. Willette. Genetic Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease Modulate How Diet is Associated with Long-Term Cognitive Trajectories: A UK Biobank StudyJournal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2020; 78 (3): 1245 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-201058


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