Caloric restriction may prevent memory loss as we age - Magaziner

Caloric restriction may prevent memory loss as we age


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Doctors at the Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders have published findings in which they suggest: “Long-term consumption of a high-calorie diet affects the brain and increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders. And consumption of a low-calorie diet (caloric restriction) could delay aging, and protect the central nervous system from neurodegenerative disorders.”1

People are living longer and one of the aspects of advanced age is the increase in the incidence of  dementia. In addition to age-related cognitive decline there is a higher risk in the aging population of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease associated with aspects of modern lifestyle.

  • Most worryingly, recent data reports accelerated cognitive decline in adolescents associated with poor diet (high fat and calorie intake). It goes to figure then that the increase in dementia in ‘old-age’ may have as much to do with ‘new-age’ lifestyle as it does with normal aging.2

There is some controversy surrounding the idea that midlfe obesity and being overweight contributes to Alzheimer’s disease despite a wealth of recent literature suggesting a clear link.

Being overweight or obese in middle years increases the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and vascular dementia

Researchers writing in the medical journal Neurology clearly state that being overweight or obese at midlife independently increases the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and vascular dementia.

  • Obesity is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia and researchers sought to identify whether weight loss improves cognition in older obese adults or if it was too late.

Fortunately, research found that weight loss in middle-aged and in older obese participants has a beneficial effect on cognitive and physical function. . . weight loss can significantly affect public health strategies for the prevention of dementia as well as on the clinical management of obesity. 3

Researchers writing in the medical journal Lancet noted that reported cases of Alzheimer’s Disease will triple over the next 40 years and that they noted seven modifiable risk factors to aid in prevention. They include:

  • They include: diabetes,
  • midlife hypertension,
  • midlife obesity,
  • smoking,
  • depression,
  • cognitive inactivity or low educational attainment,
  • and physical inactivity.

They suggest that half of all Alzheimer’s cases can be attributed to these factors singularly or in combination. The connection to obesity and factors related to obesity are apparent.4

Being overweight or obese is not the only risk factors in accelerated mental decline in people with poor eating habits. Recent research is out that suggests that older adults with diabetes and poor blood sugar control are at increased risk for greater memory decline. 5

Writing in the medical journal Archives of Neurology, researchers found: “Among well-functioning older adults, diabetes mellitus and poor glucose control among those with diabetes mellitus are associated with worse cognitive function and greater decline. This suggests that severity of diabetes mellitus may contribute to accelerated cognitive aging.” 6

Cognitive deficits and hippocampal atrophy, features that are shared with aging and dementia, have been described in type 2 diabetes mellitus. 7

Consuming between 2,100 and 6,000 calories per day may double the risk of memory loss

Recent research suggests that consuming between 2,100 and 6,000 calories per day may double the risk of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), among people age 70 and older.

The study involved 1,233 people between the ages of 70 and 89 and free of dementia. Of those, 163 had MCI. Participants reported the amount of calories they ate or drank in a food questionnaire and were divided into three equal groups based on their daily caloric consumption. One-third of the participants consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day, one-third between 1,526 and 2,143 and one-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.

  • The odds of having MCI more than doubled for those in the highest calorie-consuming group compared to those in the lowest calorie-consuming group.

The results were the same after adjusting for history of stroke, diabetes, amount of education, and other factors that can affect risk of memory loss. There was no significant difference in risk for the middle group.

“Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age,” said study co-author Yonas E. Geda, MD.8,9

The link between obesity and weight loss is well documented as we age. “Midlife hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and obesity were associated with an increased rate of progression of vascular brain injury, global and hippocampal atrophy, and decline in executive function a decade later.” 10

At the Magaziner center we offer many programs for the aging patient to deal with the tough issues of weight loss some of these programs we have covered in our recent articles.


1. Dong W, Wang R, Ma LN, Xu BL, Zhang JS, Zhao ZW, Wang YL, Zhang X. Influence of age-related learning and memory capacity of mice: different effects of a high and low caloric diet. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2015 Jul 3. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Williamson R, McNeilly A, Sutherland C. Insulin resistance in the brain: an old-age or new-age problem? Biochem Pharmacol. 2012 Sep 15;84(6):737-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 May 16.

3. Xu WL, Atti AR, Gatz M, Pedersen NL, Johansson B, Fratiglioni L. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk: a population-based twin study. Neurology. 2011 May 3;76(18):1568-74.

4. Barnes DE, Yaffe K. The projected effect of risk factor reduction on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence. Lancet Neurol. 2011 Sep;10(9):819-28. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

5. Siervo M, Nasti G, Stephan BC, et al. Effects of intentional weight loss on physical and cognitive function in middle-aged and older obese participants: a pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Apr;31(2):79-86.

6. Yaffe K, Falvey F, Hamilton N, et al. Diabetes, Glucose Control, and 9-Year Cognitive Decline Among Older Adults Without Dementia. Arch Neurol. 2012;():1-6. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2012.1117

7.Bruehl H, Wolf OT, Sweat V, et al. Modifiers of cognitive function and brain structure in middle-aged and elderly individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Brain Res. 2009 Jul 14;1280:186-94. Epub 2009 May 20.

8 . Overeating May Double Risk of Memory Loss AAN Press Release

9. Yonas Geda, MD, MSc, Marion Ragossnig, Lewis K. Roberts, Rosebud Roberts, MD, Vernon Pankratz, Teresa Christianson, Michelle Mielke, Bradley Boeve, MD, Eric Tangalos and Ronald Petersen, PhD, MD. Caloric Intake, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study.  Advanced release – April 2012 Annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology

10. Debette S, Seshadri S, Beiser A, Au R, Himali JJ, Palumbo C, Wolf PA, DeCarli C. Midlife vascular risk factor exposure accelerates structural brain aging and cognitive decline.Neurology. 2011 Aug 2;77(5):461-8.

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