Consuming a diet rich in whole grains, encompassing various foods like breads, cereals, quinoa, and popcorn, may contribute to a decelerated rate of memory decline in Black individuals, as per a study featured in the online edition of Neurology® on November 22, 2023, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Notably, the research did not observe a similar correlation among white participants.
It’s important to note that while the study highlights an association, it does not establish a causal relationship between increased whole grain consumption and slowed memory decline.
Among the findings for Black participants, those with the highest intake of whole grains exhibited lower levels of memory decline, akin to being 8.5 years younger than those with limited whole grain consumption.
With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affecting millions of Americans, finding ways to prevent the disease is a high public health priority. It’s exciting to see that people could potentially lower their risk of dementia by increasing their diet of whole grains by a couple of servings a day.” – Xiaoran Liu, PhD, MSc, Study Author, Rush University, Chicago
The research engaged 3,326 individuals, with an average age of 75 and no dementia history. Among these participants, 60%, or 1,999 individuals, were Black. The study spanned an average of six years.
To gather data, participants completed a questionnaire every three years, detailing their frequency of whole grain consumption. Additionally, cognitive and memory assessments, involving tasks like word list recall, number memory, and sequencing, were conducted every three years.
Based on their whole grain intake, participants were categorized into five groups. The lowest group consumed less than half a serving per day, while the highest group reached 2.7 servings daily. It’s noteworthy that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a minimum of three daily servings of whole-grain foods. A serving of whole grains equals an ounce of food, such as one slice of bread, half a cup of cooked pasta or rice, an ounce of crackers, or a cup of dry cereal.
The study revealed a notable contrast in whole grain consumption between Black and white participants, with 67% of Black individuals having more than one serving per day compared to 38% of their white counterparts.
In assessing cognitive decline rates, researchers employed a comprehensive global cognition score derived from four cognitive tests, tracking changes over time.
Upon accounting for influential factors like age, sex, education, and smoking, researchers observed a noteworthy trend. Among Black individuals with the highest whole grain intake (exceeding three servings daily), their global cognitive score exhibited a decline at a pace 0.2 standard deviation units per decade slower than those with the lowest intake (less than one serving per day).
“These results could help medical professionals make tailored diet recommendations,” Liu added. “More large studies are needed to validate our findings and to further investigate the effect of whole grains on cognition in different racial groups.”
One constraint of the research is the reliance on self-reported data through the food frequency questionnaire, introducing the possibility of individuals inaccurately recalling their dietary habits.
It’s worth noting that the study received support from both the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health.
American Academy of Neurology
Liu, X., et al. (2023). Association of Whole-Grain Consumption and Cognitive Decline: An Investigation from a Community-Based Biracial Cohort of Older Adults. Neurology.
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