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Healthy diet, outdoor exercise boost cognition in seniors

21 Feb 2021
Does it help to be recommending things generally good for the body, as a preventative measure against disease – even if the evidence is inconclusive?

Maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in outdoor exercises help cut the risk of cognitive impairment among elderly adults, a recent China study has shown.

Drawing from the 2011­2014 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, the researchers assessed the impact of dietary patterns and life habits, collected at baseline, on cognitive function in 5,716 elderly participants (mean age, 82 years). The Mini Mental Status Examination was used to evaluate the primary outcome in 2014.

Diet was scored according to consumption of important staple food groups, including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, and sugar, among others. Life habits included alcohol intake and tobacco use, as well as engaging in outdoor activities. Participants were then grouped into quartiles according to their total scores, with higher categories being healthier. An overall lifestyle score that combined both diet and life habits was also included in the analysis.

Logistic regression analysis found that all three metrics were significantly associated with cognitive function. Those in the highest quartile of diet scores, for example, were more than 30 percent less likely to display impaired cognition (odds ratio [OR], 0.65, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.51–0.81).

The same was true for the highest vs lowest categories of life habit (OR, 0.64, 95 percent CI, 0.53–0.77) and lifestyle (OR, 0.52, 95 percent CI, 0.41–0.65) scores. Sub-analyses according to sex showed largely similar results, except for diet in women, which was only marginally associated with cognitive outcomes.

Looking at each lifestyle variable, the researchers found that higher consumption of fish (OR, 0.80, 95 percent CI, 0.66–0.98) and nuts (OR. 0.82, 95 percent CI, 0.69–0.97), as well as a greater degree of engagement in outdoor exercise (OR, 0.69, 95 percent CI, 0.59–0.82), were significantly linked to better cognition.

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