The research, which entailed a 14-year follow-up study, showed that participants who ate the healthiest diet aged 50 had a significantly lower risk of dementia than those who ate less healthily at the same age.
Marjo Eskelinen, who presented the results in her neurology doctoral thesis, said the review was the first to look at this correlation between overall diet and dementia risk, as opposed to focusing in on one single food or nutrient.
“Nobody's diet is based on one single food, and there may be interactions between nutrients, so it makes more sense to look at the entire dietary pattern," said Eskelinen.
Meanwhile, the research also looked separately at the link between dietary fats and cognitive performance and risk of dementia.
The thesis was based on a Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) study which initially looked at the diet of 2,000 participants aged 39- 64 years. In the follow-up, 1,449 of the participants – then aged 65-75 years – stayed on to to complete the research.
Healthy diet index
The scientists used a healthy diet index to determine this link, with vegetables, berries and fruits, fish and unsaturated fats from milk products and spreads classified as healthy, while foods like sausages, eggs, sweets, sugary drinks, salty fish and saturated fats from milk products and spreads were classed as unhealthy.
Higher intake of saturated fats where linked to poorer cognitive and memory functions, an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia for those with an existing genetic threat of Alzheimer's.
Eskelinen commented on these results saying: "Even those who are genetically susceptible can at least delay the onset of the disease by favouring vegetable oils, oil-based spreads and fatty fish in their diet.”
The research also showed that those consuming 3-5 cups of coffee each day had a lower risk of dementia than those drinking more or less.
The thesis can be found HERE.