(CHICAGO) – Consuming a few servings of whole grains each day may reduce the risk of cognitive decline among older African Americans, according to RUSH researchers.
The researchers found that white subjects in their study experienced lesser benefit from eating whole grains. The results were published online in Neurology, the journal of American Academy of Neurology on Nov. 22.
“By consuming more whole grains such as breads, pasta, rice, crackers, cereals, quinoa and even popcorn, we saw a slower cognitive decline specifically in the group of African Americans,” said study author Xiaoran Liu, PhD, assistant professor of Internal Medicine at RUSH Medical College in Chicago.
“African Americans had more whole grains in their diet than the white population in our study. Previous evidence suggests eating whole-grain was protective of heart disease and AAs are more likely to develop heart disease” Liu said. “This may be a contributing factor in why we saw more of a benefit in African Americans. With rapidly aging populations, this highlights the need for more studies to explore this association to tailor dietary recommendations and help find ways to delay dementia.”
African American participants who had reported eating more servings of whole grains, had lower levels of decline almost equivalent to being 8.5 years younger over the 10-year period of observation.
The analysis included 3,326 people with an average age of 75 without dementia with 1,999, or 60%, being Black participants. The participants were followed for an average of six years and were asked to fill out a questionnaire on how much and how often they ate whole grains. Annual cognitive and memory tests were conducted where the participants were asked to remember lists of words and numbers in the correct order.
“With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affecting millions of Americans, finding ways to prevent the disease is a high public health priority,” Liu said. “It’s exciting to see that people could potentially lower their risk of dementia just by increasing their consumption of whole grains by a couple of servings a day.”
Five groups of participants were organized by the amount of whole grains consumed. The group that consumed the least amount of grains ate the equivalent of less than half a serving a day, or half an ounce. The group with the highest amount of grains consumed about 2.7 servings each day, nearly 3 ounces.
“Whole grains are rich in vitamin B and E, and other antioxidants. They have a lot of fiber, which has been linked to a lot of health benefits, particularly related to brain health. So, we do see a lot of evidence in terms of whole grains being protective in lowering heart disease risk, and we know what’s good for the heart may also good for the brain,” Liu said.
The researchers acquired data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a biracial population-based study.
The study was supported by the Alzheimer's Association and National Institutes of Health.