If you want to keep your wits about you as you get older, watch your carb consumption. A new study from the Mayo Clinic found that seniors age 70 and older whose diets were high in carbohydrates had nearly four times the risk of mild cognitive impairment – a decline in memory, language, thinking and judgment – beyond normal age-related changes. The risks were lowest among seniors whose diets provided a lot of protein and fat relative to carbs.
The investigators tracked 1,230 men and women ages 70 to 89 who reported on their diets during the previous year. The researchers then evaluated the cognitive function of the participants and focused on the 940 who had no signs of impairment. Four years later, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show evidence of mild cognitive deficits. The researchers found that participants whose carbohydrate consumption was highest at the beginning of the study were nearly twice as likely to have developed mild cognitive impairment as those whose carb intake was lowest. The study also found that participants whose sugar intake was highest were 1.5 times more likely to experience mild cognitive impairment than those who reported consuming the least sugar.