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Cutting carbs and sugar could reduce risk of mild cognitive impairment

October 17, 2012

Taking steps to stay mentally sharp is a key part of healthy aging, and the results of a new study suggest one of the best ways for seniors to do that is to look at what they're eating. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that older adults who had diets high in carbohydrates and sugar were considerably more likely to have mild cognitive impairment.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, looked at the diets of more than 1,200 people between the ages of 70 and 89. After following the subjects over the course of four years, researchers noticed that participants whose diets were highest in carbohydrates were about 1.9 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, while those with high sugar diets were approximately 1.5 times as likely.

While the results highlighted the perils of eating a diet high in carbs and sugar, the study also found ways for seniors to reduce their chances of developing mild cognitive impairment. Most notably, they found that a diet high in protein is associated with a 21 percent lower risk.

"We think it's important that you eat a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, because each of these nutrients has an important role in the body," Dr. Rosebud Roberts said.

Though it may not be as serious as conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia, mild cognitive impairment is often seen as a precursor to these two mental health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition affects about 16 percent of people between the ages of 70 and 89, and while the changes may not impact a person's day-to-day routine, the condition is often typified by problems with memory, language and judgement.