According to a study recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, levels of six plasma metabolites are associated with lower cognitive function in all racial/ethnic groups, and levels of most of them were associated with adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet. .
Previous studies have shown that levels of certain blood metabolites are associated with cognitive function and dementia. Blood metabolite levels can be influenced by genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle factors, socio-economic factors, as well as health status, and they can also differ between different ethnic or racial groups . Characterization of metabolites can help researchers understand the mechanisms underlying disease development, and they can be easily measured to serve as biomarkers.
This study characterized blood metabolites associated with cognitive function among various racial/ethnic groups. The findings suggest that dietary habits could potentially influence levels of these metabolites and cognitive performance, drawing further attention to the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
Dr. Tamar Sofer, a professor at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: We have identified some metabolites (small molecules) in the blood that their levels are correlated with cognitive function, and they are all linked to diet. Although there are clinical trials showing that diet can influence cognitive function, identifying specific metabolites can help identify [a] specific mechanism, specific components of [a] diet more important than others, and biomarkers to measure [the] successful dietary changes. Adding that “there is still work to do to get these milestones to fruition, but it’s a good start, especially because the results were held up in a few different studies, so the results are very reliable.”
Another study showed that levels of 13 blood metabolites were associated with overall cognitive function. Since metabolite levels are influenced by a multitude of factors, the authors investigated whether the results of the BPRHS study could be replicated in different samples of Puerto Rican heritage in America, and they also investigated whether the results could be generalized to the entire Hispanic/Latino population as well as other ethnic groups.
The BPRHS study identified several metabolites that can be influenced by dietary habits, indicating that healthy changes in eating habits could be a possible intervention to help preserve cognitive health, the researcher also examined the causal role of blood metabolites and dietary habits influencing cognitive function.
To assess the generalizability of the BPRHS results, the researchers used data from 2,222 adults enrolled in the HCHS/SOL study, and using blood samples from this study, the researchers estimated the levels of 11 of the 13 metabolites assessed in the BPRHS. The direction of effects of blood metabolites on cognitive function in the HCHS/SOL study and all participants was found to be similar to that observed in the BPRHS.
A significant correlation was found between the levels of certain metabolites with global cognitive function in all HCHS/Sol participants. Higher levels of beta-cryptoxanthin and lower levels of gamma-glucuronide-CEHC have been associated with cognitive function.
To examine the association between blood metabolites and cognitive function in other racial/ethnic group data from 1,365 European Americans and 478 African Americans enrolled in the ARIC Study.
A meta-analysis was then conducted to assess associations between blood metabolite levels and cognitive levels using data from the ARIC, BPRHS and HCHC/SOL studies. The results showed that 6 blood metabolites were associated with lower cognitive function in all groups: and 4/6 of the metabolites associated with overall cognitive function were sugars, including glucose, ribitol, mannose and mannitol/sorbitol . Previous analysis only found a correlation between cognitive function and metabolites, further analysis only revealed a potential causal effect of ribitol on cognitive function.
The association between dietary habits and blood metabolite levels was also assessed. The results showed that adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet or its food group was correlated with several blood metabolites, with the strongest association observed between beta-cryptoxanthin and fruit consumption. Beta-cryptoxanthin is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties found in fruits and vegetables.
Food groups played a causal role in cognitive performance, but cognitive function (associated with socioeconomic status that can influence the effects of cognitive status on eating habits) had a much stronger causal effect on consumption. specific food groups. Overall, the results indicate that dietary habits could influence cognitive performance by modulating metabolite levels.
This study was not without limitations like previous studies using different methods of assessing cognitive function, and causal effects should be interpreted with caution.
“There are several challenges in interpreting these results in relation to the role of specific nutritional groups and brain health. This is a cross-sectional study from which causal relationships cannot be established. Not only can nutrition affect brain health, but poor cognitive function can also influence nutrition, suggesting a two-way relationship,” said Dr Perminder Sachdev, professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales. Sachdev also pointed out that “blood metabolites have multiple determinants, diet being just one of them. Genetic factors, health-related comorbidities, and lifestyle are all important. A direct attribution to diet is therefore difficult.
Adding that much more work is needed, Sachdev said, “We need to better understand the plasma metabolome to know what determines their blood levels before we can begin to interpret such studies. We need longitudinal studies with multiple measures in large samples, followed by intervention studies, so that the causal relationship can be established. Adding that “this study is a step in the right direction in examining the role of diet and the body’s metabolism in brain health. It provides suggestive evidence that adhering to a good diet such as the Mediterranean-style diet can benefit brain health across a wide age range.
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