A recent scientific publication by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)’s Nutrients journal suggests there might be a correlation between regular cheese consumption and better cognitive health in the elderly population.
Over the years, the nexus between dietary habits and their impact on physical well-being has been firmly established. However, the realm of cognitive health and its relation to food intake is an area that’s still being actively explored. Dairy products, especially milk and cheese, have previously been under the microscope, with some studies hinting at their protective benefits for the brain — but the evidence has been inconsistent.
As the global prevalence of cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s, continues to surge, pinpointing dietary and lifestyle factors that could mitigate risk becomes paramount. This recent study was rooted in the premise of prior research which suggested a beneficial association between cheese intake and cognitive acumen.
The research team analyzed data from 1,516 participants aged 65 and above, recruited from a participant pool of a geriatric survey that the team conducted once per year, every two years. These individuals, who were all based in Tokyo, Japan, were subjected to detailed assessments concerning their dietary patterns, with a special focus on cheese consumption.
Their cognitive capabilities were then gauged using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a widely-used 30-point test of cognitive function among the elderly; it includes tests of orientation, attention, memory, language and visual-spatial skills. For the scope of this research, an MMSE score of 23 or below was categorized as indicative of lower cognitive function.
After rigorous data analysis, factoring in variables like age, physical activity, and overall dietary habits, the results showed that participants who incorporated cheese into their diets were less likely to register scores of 23 or below on the MMSE.
Further dissecting the data revealed that consistent cheese consumers also boasted a more diverse diet — yet, this dietary diversity did not diminish the observed correlation between cheese consumption and cognitive prowess.
However, despite these outcomes, certain limitations in the study warrant mention. The cross-sectional nature of the study means that it captured data at a singular point in time, precluding any causal inferences. Reliance on participant-reported cheese consumption could introduce potential recall biases. Additionally, while the MMSE is a reputable evaluative tool, the cut-off score employed in this study as a marker for lower cognitive function may differ from other research conventions.
“Although the present study was an analysis of cross-sectional data of Japanese community-dwelling older adults, the results suggest that cheese intake is inversely associated with lower cognitive function even after adjusting for multiple confounding factors. In the future, a large-scale longitudinal analysis is needed to elucidate the causal relationship,” the researchers concluded.
The study, “Inverse Association between Cheese Consumption and Lower Cognitive Function in Japanese Community-Dwelling Older Adults Based on a Cross-Sectional Study“, was authored by a team of researchers led by Hunkyung Kim of the Gaon Research Center, in the Republic of Korea.