Surprising link between your groceries and dementia found by scientists

A study has found that a surprising link between shopping for groceries and dementia.

The surprising link between your grocery and dementia, found by scientists
© Jonathan Kirn
The surprising link between your grocery and dementia, found by scientists

Dementia is a condition that affects millions of older adults each year. While a lot remains to be studied regarding why it affects humans the way it does, a new study has found some surprising connections that could help people delay the onset of cognitive decline.

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As reported by Best Life Online,a studypublished in the academic journal Neurology has found that government assistance programmes, that provide food security and access to healthy foods, could have a positive impact in preventing dementia in older adults.

The study was done in context of the United States, where they found that people who participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (previously called food stamp program) showed lower rates of memory decline.

Older adults with access to SNAP benefits showed lower levels of cognitive decline across time Maskot

Importance of food security for brain health

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health accessed data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is a population-based study of U.S. adults aged 50 above. They studied 3,555 people who qualified for SNAP, and got memory and cognition tests done every two years from 1996 to 2016.

Out of this population, only 559 participants used SNAP and the others did not. The conclusions of the study are illuminating. The participants who used SNAP experienced slower cognitive ageing while the sample that did not use SNAP had 1.74 to 2.33 more years of cognitive ageing over ten years.

The study highlights the importance of food security and nutrition Angus Ford-Robertson

Link between nutrition and brain health

The main reason for the difference between the two cohorts could be that SNAP provided the latter group access to nutritious food which lowered risks of cognitive illness. The program also granted them routine doctor visits and medication which benefitted their overall health.

This study thus underlines the importance of nutrition and how food assistance programs are vital tools to keep the population healthy, including reducing cognitive illnesses.

Peiyi Lu, one of the authors of the study and a postdoctoral research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, further states in Science Daily,

While SNAP's primary goal is to reduce food insecurity among low-income households and to increase access to higher quantity and quality foods, eating healthier may also benefit brain health.
SNAP may also reduce stress and overall financial hardship, which has been linked to premature cognitive aging and reduced brain health. Future research should explore these underlying impacts.

Sources used:

Neurology: 'Association Between Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Use and Memory Decline: Findings From the Health and Retirement Study'

Science Daily: 'Using SNAP benefits can help your memory, study finds'

Best Life Online: ‘Scientists Just Found a Surprising Connection Between Grocery Shopping and Dementia’

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