Dietary choline associated with reduced risk of dementia

Summary: Adding extra choline through eggs or meat to your daily diet could help stave off the effects of dementia. Higher phosphatidylcholine intake through diet was associated with lower rates of dementia and improved cognitive function in aging men.

Source: University of Eastern Finland

A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland is the first to observe that dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Phosphatidylcholine was also linked to enhanced cognitive performance. The main dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine were eggs and meat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Choline is an essential nutrient, usually occurring in food in various compounds. Choline is also necessary for the formation of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Earlier studies have linked choline intake with cognitive processing, and adequate choline intake may play a role in the prevention of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, choline is nowadays used in a multi-nutrient medical drink intended for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s.

The new study now shows that the risk of dementia was 28% lower in men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine, when compared to men with the lowest intake. Men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine also excelled in tests measuring their memory and linguistic abilities. These findings are significant, considering that more than 50 million people worldwide are suffering from a memory disorder that has led to dementia, and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, for which no cure currently exists. The new findings may, therefore, play a vital role in the prevention of dementia. Successful dementia prevention is a sum of many things and in this equation, even small individual factors can have a positive effect on the overall risk, possibly by preventing or delaying the disease onset.

“However, this is just one observational study, and we need further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn,” Maija Ylilauri, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Eastern Finland points out.

The data for the study were derived from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD. At the onset of the study in 1984-1989, researchers analyzed approximately 2,500 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 for their dietary and lifestyle habits, and health in general. These data were combined with their hospital records, cause of death records and medication reimbursement records after an average follow-up period of 22 years. In addition, four years after the study onset, approximately 500 men completed tests measuring their memory and cognitive processing. During the follow-up, 337 men developed dementia.

This shows hard boiled eggs

The key sources of phosphatidylcholine in the study population’s diet were eggs (39%) and meat (37%). The image is in the public domain.

The analyses extensively accounted for other lifestyle and nutrition-related factors that could have explained the observed associations. In addition, the APOE4 gene, which predisposes to Alzheimer’s disease and is common in the Finnish population, was accounted for, showing no significant impact on the findings. The key sources of phosphatidylcholine in the study population’s diet were eggs (39%) and meat (37%).

About this neuroscience research article

Source:
University of Eastern Finland
Media Contacts:
Maija Ylilauri – University of Eastern Finland
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study “. Maija P.T. Ylilauri, Sari Voutilainen, Eija Lönnroos, Heli E.K. Virtanen, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Jukka T. Salonen, Jyrki K. Virtanen.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz148

Abstract

Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study

Background
Moderate egg intake has been associated with better cognitive performance in observational studies. This association may be due to the rich content of choline, especially phosphatidylcholine, in eggs because choline has been suggested to have a role in the prevention of cognitive decline.

Objectives
We investigated the associations of dietary choline intake with the risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance in middle-aged and older men in the prospective, population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.

Methods
A population-based sample of 2497 dementia-free men aged 42–60 y was examined in 1984–1989. A subset of 482 men completed 5 different cognitive performance tests 4 y later. Dementia and Alzheimer disease diagnoses were retrieved from Finnish health registers. Dietary intakes were assessed with the use of 4-d food records at baseline. Cox regression and ANCOVA were used for the analyses. All analyses were also stratified by the apolipoprotein E phenotype (APOE-ε4 compared with other phenotypes). These data were available for 1259 men.

Results
The mean ± SD total choline intake was 431 ± 88 mg/d, of which 188 ± 63 mg/d was phosphatidylcholine. During a 21.9-y follow-up, 337 men were diagnosed with dementia. Those in the highest compared with the lowest phosphatidylcholine intake quartile had 28% (95% CI: 1%, 48%; P-trend = 0.02 across quartiles) lower multivariable-adjusted risk of incident dementia. Total choline intake had no association with the risk of incident dementia. However, both total choline and phosphatidylcholine intakes were associated with better performance in cognitive tests assessing frontal and temporal lobe functioning. For example, higher intakes were associated with better performance in verbal fluency and memory functions. The APOE phenotype had little or no impact on the associations.

Conclusion
Higher phosphatidylcholine intake was associated with lower risk of incident dementia and better cognitive performance in men in eastern Finland. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03221127.

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