Food for thought: Nutrition, ageing and cognitive health

Life expectancy has increased. More of us are living for longer than ever before. However, with this, there is a greater extent of disease and mental and/or physical disability that interferes with daily activities.

Cognitive function includes capacities such as learning and remembering. With age, cognitive function declines, and this is called age-related cognitive decline. There are a number of things we can do to reduce the rate of this, including things like exercising, keeping the brain active and having a healthy diet. Diet can support healthy cognitive function.

Polyunsaturated fats are healthier fats, for example, omega-3 fats. These have anti-inflammatory characteristics; therefore, they reduce inflammation. These fats also support the function of cells that make up the brain. Similarly, phospholipids are another type of fat available from a wide range of food items that are part of a usual diet e.g. sources include dairy, eggs and soy-based products. Phospholipids are also anti-inflammatory, and they provide key nutrients that the brain uses when we learn new and remember information. Giving phospholipids to individuals to have in addition to their usual diet has been linked to better memory.

The Human Appetite Research Unit in the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds is currently running a study to look at the benefits of phospholipids on cognitive function. Volunteers on the study have a drink-based supplement that has been produced by Arla Foods each day for 3 months. All ingredients that make up the drinks are found in regular foods consumed as part of a usual diet.

Adults aged 50 years and over, who feel as though their memory is not as good as it was when they were younger are able to volunteer for the study, and study appointments are every 6 weeks. Appointments can take place either at the University or in the homes of volunteers. Volunteers receive £10 per study appointment to compensate for time lost.

If you would like to find out more about this study, please feel free to contact Claire Champ by email or by phone: 07480 518 960.


This post was written by Claire Champ using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.