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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eating less helps older people remember better

Those who restrict their caloric intake the most exhibit the most striking improvement in memory and cognitive skillsHamburg (Germany): Yet another incentive for older people to lose weight has come from a team of German researchers, who say that reducing caloric intake can help older people to remember better. The researchers at the University of Muenster in Germany found that memory and cognitive skills showed marked improvement among healthy, overweight subjects who cut their caloric intake by 30 per cent over a three-month period.

But unlike conventional “weight-reduction diets” which focus on cutting specific food groups, the German test subjects were not told which foods to avoid.

Instead, the 49 men and women with a median age of 60 were divided into three groups. The first group were told to eat as they normally would. The second group had a similar diet but were given a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in olive oil and fish.

The third group were told to strictly reduce their caloric intake, while making sure not to drop below 1,200 calories a day. They were told that they were to avoid crash-dieting, but that they should eat about a third less than they normally would.

After three months, there was no difference in memory scores in the first two groups, but the 50 in the third group performed better.

The average weight loss was 2.5 kilos per person. Those who adhered most strictly to the guidelines and reduced their intake by up to 30 per cent lost an average 3.5 kilos.

Those who restricted their caloric intake the most also exhibited the most striking improvement in memory and cognitive skills, according to Dr Agnes Floel, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Muenster.

“To our knowledge, the current results provide first experimental evidence in humans that caloric restriction improves memory in the elderly,” she wrote in a report published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The present findings may help to develop new prevention and treatment strategies for maintaining cognitive health into old age,” she added. However, Floel stressed that the test subjects had been instructed to avoid crash-dieting.

They were admonished to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They were told they must not reduce caloric intake below 1,200 calories per day.

Floel said more research is needed and added that a larger study is being planned.


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