Research being led by Queen’s University, Belfast, is set to provide insight into the role of undernutrition in cognitive health. It will explore how diet and exercise can work to combat undernutrition – one in ten UK adults aged 60 years plus are undernourished – and the effect of factors such as age, gender and genetics on the risk of dementia in older age.
The PROMED-COG Consortium – PROtein enriched MEDiterranean diet to combat undernutrition and promote healthy neuroCOGnitive ageing – has brought together expertise to better understand how the balance between diet and physical activity could reverse undernutrition during ageing and, ultimately, prevent dementia.
PROMED-COG project co-ordinator, Dr Claire McEvoy from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, said: “Weight loss increases the risk of dementia by up to 40% but occurs a decade or more before the symptoms of memory loss become apparent. This gives us an opportunity to intervene early with preventative strategies to counteract undernutrition and, potentially, the onset of cognitive impairment.”
PROMED-COG will use existing datasets in Italy to study the links between undernutrition, cognitive decline, and dementia. The project will also test the effect of adopting a diet and exercise intervention, over a six-month period, on undernutrition and cognition in older adults living in Northern Ireland. This will inform the recommendations developed to slow down cognitive decline and prevent dementia in older European citizens.
Dr McEvoy added: “Dementia is a huge problem affecting our ageing population. There is a significant lack of research in this area. This [area of research] will not only prolong the period of life spent in good health but will also reduce the societal and economic burden of dementia.”