Study Shows DASH Diet Cuts Risk of Cognitive Decline in Women

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Oct.24, 2023 -- A heart-healthy diet has been linked with a lower risk of cognitive decline among women over 40 in a new study.

The study found that the more these women stuck to the DASH diet – short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – the less risk they had of experiencing these issues.

The study was reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

The DASH diet relies on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins while restricting red meat, salt, added sugars and fat. It was designed to lower high blood pressure.

The diet also has been shown to reduce people’s risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, Healthline reported.

The research was based on data from more than 5,000 women who were among 14,000 in the New York University Health Study. Their average age at entering the program was 46.3 years.

Information about their diets was compared to how closely it followed the DASH diet. After about 30 years, the women were asked to share any cognitive issues, with researchers asking them questions that reveal mild cognitive impairment that can lead to dementia.

A third of the participants said they had more than one of the six types of cognitive issues they were asked about. But those who kept most tightly to the DASH diet had a 17% lower risk of reporting multiple complaints.

Heart-healthy diets like the DASH diet are rich in nutrients found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, said Kelsey Costa, a registered dietitian for the National Coalition on Healthcare.

“These components possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, potentially reducing brain oxidative stress while promoting neurogenesis (nerve cell formation) and neuronal connectivity, contributing to our brain’s overall health and functionality,” she said.

The DASH diet also reduces high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cognitive decline, she noted.