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Eating cheese can combat cognitive decline, new research finds

In the pursuit of a healthier, more fulfilling life, the choices we make in our diets have always played a significant role. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

In the pursuit of a healthier, more fulfilling life, the choices we make in our diets have always played a significant role. The link between what we eat and our physical well-being has been extensively studied and understood for years. But what about the impact of our dietary choices on our cognitive health, especially in the elderly population?

This is a realm of scientific inquiry that continues to evolve. In this context, dairy products, particularly cheese, have recently garnered attention for their potential role in supporting brain health. While some studies have hinted at the protective benefits of dairy products for the brain, the evidence has been somewhat inconsistent.


However, a recent study published in the Nutrients journal by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) suggests that regular cheese consumption might indeed be associated with better cognitive health in the elderly.

With the global prevalence of cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, on the rise, identifying factors in our diets and lifestyles that could mitigate the risk becomes crucial. This study builds upon prior research that has suggested a possible positive link between cheese consumption and cognitive abilities.


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To delve into this intriguing connection, the research team examined data from 1,516 participants aged 65 and above. These individuals were part of a geriatric survey conducted every two years in Tokyo, Japan. The researchers collected detailed information about their dietary habits, with a specific emphasis on cheese consumption.

Additionally, they assessed the cognitive capabilities of these participants using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a widely-accepted 30-point test that measures various aspects of cognitive function in the elderly. The MMSE includes assessments of orientation, attention, memory, language, and visual-spatial skills. In this study, an MMSE score of 23 or below was considered indicative of lower cognitive function.


Upon meticulous analysis of the gathered data, accounting for factors such as age, physical activity, and overall dietary patterns, the results were clear. Participants who regularly incorporated cheese into their diets were less likely to score 23 or below on the MMSE, suggesting better cognitive function.

Comparison of the measured parameters between the MMSE > 23 group and the MMSE ≤ 23 group. Compared to the MMSE > 23 group, the MMSE ≤ 23 group were older and had smaller calf circumference, slower usual walking speed, lower total MMSE score, fewer teeth, higher creatinine levels, a lower total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels, lower albumin levels, a higher prevalence of anemia, and a lower percentage of milk consumption. (CREDIT: MDPI)

A closer look at the data also revealed an interesting trend: individuals who consumed cheese consistently tended to have more diverse diets. However, this diversity in dietary choices did not diminish the observed correlation between cheese consumption and cognitive prowess.


While the findings of this study are certainly intriguing, it's essential to acknowledge certain limitations. The study was cross-sectional, meaning it collected data at a single point in time, which makes it difficult to establish causal relationships. Moreover, the reliance on participant-reported cheese consumption could introduce recall biases. Additionally, the choice of an MMSE score of 23 or below as an indicator of lower cognitive function may differ from other research conventions.

Cheese intake of the subjects. Of a total of 1517 subjects, 1230 (81.0%) comprised the cheese intake group, and 287 (19.0%) comprised the non-cheese intake group. Regarding the type of cheese consumed, processed cheese accounted for the highest percentage of 65.7%, and white mold cheese accounted for 15.3%. (CREDIT: MDPI)

The researchers noted, "Although the present study was an analysis of cross-sectional data of Japanese community-dwelling older adults, the results suggest that cheese intake is inversely associated with lower cognitive function even after adjusting for multiple confounding factors. In the future, a large-scale longitudinal analysis is needed to elucidate the causal relationship."


As we continue to grapple with the challenges posed by cognitive disorders, understanding the potential role of diet in promoting cognitive health remains a compelling avenue of research. While this study provides intriguing insights into the possible benefits of cheese consumption, it is just one piece of the puzzle.

Odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for variables associated with lower cognitive function.  (CREDIT: MDPI)

Future studies, ideally of a longitudinal nature, will help clarify whether cheese truly holds the potential to protect and enhance cognitive function in older adults. This research, while promising, underscores the need for a holistic approach to maintaining cognitive health, which includes a balanced diet, physical activity, and ongoing cognitive stimulation.


In the meantime, it may be worth considering incorporating a bit of cheese into your diet as part of a broader strategy for maintaining cognitive well-being. Whether you enjoy it on a cracker, in a sandwich, or as a topping for your favorite dishes, cheese could be more than just a delicious addition to your meals; it might be a small step towards a healthier, sharper mind in your golden years.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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