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Member Research and Reports

Taiwanese Researcher Finds Different Dietary Patterns Associated with the Change of Domain-specific and Global Cognitive Functions in Chinese Elderly

Substantial differences in cooking style, dietary habits, food items, and nutrients in foods across geographical regions, dietary patterns (DPs) identified in western countries (e.g., Mediterranean diet) are inapplicable to Asians. No study has explored the association between DP and cognitive impairment in Chinese population. In addition, studies relating specific cognitive domains to DP are limited. This study is led by associate professor Dr. Yen-Ching Karen Chen at Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, National Taiwan University, which has been collaborated with Dr. Meei-Hsuan Lee at National Defense College. Three DPs are identified for Chinese elderly population, which has been published online by Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on January 16 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.14741/full).

This is a cohort study, a total of 475 participants aged ≥ 65 were recruited from the elderly health checkup program at National Taiwan University Hospital, Taiwan, from 2011 to 2013. For each participant, global and domain-specific cognitive function are collected at baseline as well as during follow-up (2013-2015). Dietary data from the previous year are collected via a food frequency questionnaire.

This study identifies three DPs, e.g., vegetable, meat and traditional (fermented food and pickles), in Chinese elderly. Intake of vegetable or fermented food protects against the decline of logical memory. However, vegetable intake is related to the decline of executive function. Meat consumption is related to the decline of verbal fluency but protected against the decline of attention. Last, “traditional” DP protected against the decline of logical memory.

This study, for the first time, identifies vegetable, meat, and traditional DPs related to cognitive function in Chinese elderly. Among them, the “traditional” DP, which included fermented food and pickles, is different from western diet. Because fermented food and pickles tend to have higher levels of salt or sugar, a proper amount of intake of these foods may protect against the decline of logical memory. Further research is warranted to assess the efficacy of dietary interventions for preventing cognitive decline in the elderly.