Food and Behaviour Research

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11 March 2015 - MedicalXpress - Healthy eating, exercise, and brain-training

A comprehensive programme providing older people at risk of dementia with healthy eating guidance, exercise, brain training, and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors appears to slow down cognitive decline, according to the first ever randomised controlled trial of its kind, published in The Lancet.

1260 people from across Finland, aged 60-77 years, were included in the study, with half randomly allocated to the intervention group, and half allocated to a control group, who received regular health advice only. All of the study participants were deemed to be at risk of dementia, based on standardised test scores.

The intensive intervention consisted of regular meetings over two years with physicians, nurses, and other health professionals, with participants given comprehensive advice on maintaining a healthy diet, exercise programmes including both muscle and cardiovascular training, brain training exercises, and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors through regular blood tests, and other means.

After two years, study participants' mental function was scored using a standard test, the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB), where a higher score corresponds to better mental functioning. Overall test scores in the intervention group were 25% higher than in the control group. For some parts of the test, the difference between groups was even more striking—for executive functioning (the brain's ability to organise and regulate thought processes) scores were 83% higher in the intervention group, and processing speed was 150% higher.