Eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and lower in animal products lowers the risk of cognitive decline later in life, a new study suggests. Led by Koh Woon Puay, a professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and the Duke-NUS Medical School, the study examined data available from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, a population cohort study of 63,257 Chinese people living in Singapore. Puay and her colleagues interviewed adults aged 45 to 74 about their diet and lifestyle between April 1993 and December 1998, with three follow-up visits until 2016. For the study, Puay used the data to select information on 16,948 individuals (aged 53, on average) as a baseline. These participants only completed cognitive function assessments during their follow-up visit, in 2014 to 2016, and of them, 14.4 percent had cognitive impairment. The researchers found that people who had strongly adhered to plant-based dietary patterns during midlife were less likely to develop cognitive impairment later on. Specifically, those whose diets were plant-based were 18 to 33 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those who don’t follow a plant-heavy diet. “Previous studies have shown mixed results when it comes to diet and the risk of cognitive impairment, with few studies conducted in Asian populations,” Puay told media outlet Medical News Today. “Our study suggests that maintaining a [healthful] dietary pattern is important for the prevention of onset and delay of cognitive impairment.”

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