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Alzheimer’s Alert: How much whole grains in diet can slow down memory loss in Blacks?

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Study on whole grain consumption, however, did not identify a similar trend among White participants

A representational image shows various whole-grain breads. —iStock
A representational image shows various whole-grain breads. —iStock

A groundbreaking study published in the online issue of Neurology® on November 22, 2023, reveals a potential connection between increased whole grain consumption and a decelerated rate of memory decline in Black individuals. 

Conducted by researchers from the American Academy of Neurology, the study on whole grain consumption, however, did not identify a similar trend among White participants.

While the study emphasises an association rather than establishing causation, it sheds light on the intriguing possibility that incorporating whole grains into the diet may have cognitive benefits for Black individuals. 

Lead author Dr Liu commented, “These results could help medical professionals make tailored diet recommendations.”

Examining data from 3,326 participants with an average age of 75, the study spanned six years and included regular assessments of cognitive function and memory. 

Participants filled out questionnaires every three years, detailing their whole grain consumption frequency, and underwent cognitive tests such as word recall and number sequencing.

The findings indicated that, among Black individuals, those with the highest whole grain intake experienced memory decline levels equivalent to being 8.5 years younger than those with lower consumption.

 Participants were categorised into five groups based on their whole grain intake, ranging from less than half a serving per day to 2.7 servings per day. Notably, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a minimum of three servings of whole-grain foods daily.

Analysis revealed that 67% of Black participants exceeded one serving per day of whole grains, compared to 38% of their White counterparts.

Adjusting for factors like age, sex, education, and smoking, the study found that Black individuals with the highest whole grain intake demonstrated a slower cognitive decline rate—0.2 standard deviation units per decade—compared to those with the lowest intake.

Dr Liu emphasised the need for caution, noting the study’s limitations, particularly the reliance on self-reported data from food frequency questionnaires.

“More large studies are needed to validate our findings and to further investigate the effect of whole grains on cognition in different racial groups,” she added.

Supported by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health, this research underscores the potential role of diet in cognitive health, urging further exploration in diverse populations.

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