Whole Grains & Brain Gains: The Surprising Association between Dietary Fiber & Cognitive Function

Exploring ways to maintain healthy cognitive function is a vital part of supporting aging well. A new study focused on higher dietary fiber intake as one possible way to combat cognitive decline. More specifically, researchers examined how fiber may be associated with cognitive processes such as learning, recall ability, executive function, processing speed, and attention.

Utilizing a publicly available national health and nutrition dataset, this study examined the data of 1,070 adults aged 60 and better. Fiber intake was calculated from daily dietary recalls of the participants, and cognitive function was evaluated with a variety of cognitive tests. Ultimately, the researchers found a significant positive association between dietary fiber intake and scores from one of the tests that measured information processing speed, sustained attention, and working memory. The association between higher amounts of fiber and better scores on this test was shown to plateau at intakes of 34 grams of fiber per day. This relationship existed even when the researchers accounted for possible external factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, medical history, body mass index, daily calories, and alcohol intake.

Although this study is limited in that it cannot establish a causal relationship between fiber and cognitive performance, it could still help public health professionals develop dietary interventions aimed at combating cognitive decline. Future research in this area could explore how much fiber and what types of fiber are most beneficial for cognition, and researchers could even examine how other nutrients may also improve cognitive function. The effect of specific nutrients on cognition may vary from person to person, but studies like this one could play a key role in developing generalized dietary practices and interventions that keep people aging well.


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Prokopidis, K., Giannos, P., Ispoglou, T., Witard, O. C., & Isanejad, M. (2022). Dietary fiber intake is associated with cognitive function in older adults: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The American Journal of Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2022.03.022

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