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Plant-Based Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Black Adults as They Age

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The use of a largely plant-based diet by older Black persons in the United States may significantly delay the pace of cognitive deterioration, according to early study findings.

According to the data presented Friday at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference in Chicago, this food pattern had a less significant impact on cognitive impairment among older white individuals.

According to senior researcher Xiaoran Liu, an assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center’s Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, “it’s not that the diet doesn’t work for white individuals.” “It simply had a disproportionately negative effect on African Americans.”

The previous study has shown that making good dietary adjustments may help to reduce cognitive decline, but little research has looked at the effect of these changes on Black individuals, who have a risk of dementia that is about double that of white persons. Other research has connected a diet that is largely plant-based to a decreased risk of stroke, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, among other things.

According to Maya Vadiveloo, associate professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island, “research is really coming out to support the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.” “It does not rule out the consumption of animal-sourced foods or low-fat dairy products, but it does suggest that consumers consume more legumes and whole grains. Having a diet rich in plant-based foods is very beneficial to our general health.”

Approximately 4,753 Black and white individuals aged 74 years on average at the start of the study participated in the trial, and the researchers studied their nutrition and cognitive function throughout a 10-year period. Participants were divided into three groups based on their scores from self-reported dietary patterns: those who ate healthy plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, vegetable oils, tea, and coffee; those who ate a less-healthy plant-based diet rich in fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets; and those who ate a diet rich in animal fats, dairy, eggs, meats, fish, or seafood. Over the course of the trial, black people consumed much more eggs, fish or shellfish, sweetened beverages, and whole grains than their white counterparts.

Overall cognition, perceptual quickness, and episodic memory — the capacity to remember personal events connected with a specific time and place – were all measured by the researchers after that. Researchers discovered that the most nutritious plant-based diet significantly delayed the decrease in all three categories for Black individuals more than it did for white ones.

When comparing Black people in the highest bracket of the healthiest eating group to their Black colleagues whose plant-based diet was not as healthy, the researchers found that overall cognitive deterioration was reduced by 28.4 percent. Adults of both races, black and white, who consumed the other two food groups had no slowing of overall cognitive deterioration.

For Black individuals, the effect of nutrition on perceptual quickness and episodic memory was much more severe than it was for white adults. Participants in the study who had the healthiest plant-based diet saw a 49.3 percent slower reduction in perceptual quickness and a 44.2 percent slower decline in episodic memory compared to their counterparts who consumed a diet that included more animal items. Prior to the publication of the entire research in a peer-reviewed journal, the results should be regarded as preliminary.

According to Liu, there might be a variety of factors for the discrepancy in earnings between white and black people. One possible explanation is that Black adults are at higher risk for cardiovascular problems, which can have a negative impact on cognitive health. As a result, reducing that risk by eating a heart-healthy, plant-based diet may have a more pronounced impact on their brain health than it would on people who are at a lower risk in the first place.

Those increased cardiovascular risks among black individuals in the United States are caused by a variety of structural and social factors, including historically restricted access to treatment, medicines, healthy meals, and other services that may help reduce risks.

According to Liu, the differential in cognitive deterioration shown in the research might also be explained by differences in eating habits. For example, African-American individuals consumed far more whole grains than white adults. She is now doing an investigation on the influence of particular dietary categories on participants’ memory decline.

In an interview with Vadiveloo, who was not involved in the current study, she expressed her hope that results like these might spur individuals to adopt a better diet. “People might be driven in various ways by different health situations at different times. Adults are highly motivated by dementia, maybe much more so than they are by heart disease.”

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