Nutrients, age and cognitive function

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Abstract

Many nutrients or indices of nutritional status are associated with cognitive functioning, although the size of the effects on cognitive performance may be small. Results from recent studies, however, seem consistently to indicate that supplementation with β-carotene and α-tocopherol, substances that promote antioxidant vitamins A and E, respectively, can be beneficial to cognitive function in elderly people. Folate rather than vitamin B12 appears to be associated with cognitive functioning. Furthermore the daily intake of ginkgo biloba extract can enhance cognitive performance and has been proved to delay cognitive decline in dementia. A proper dietary composition with regard to the ratio of carbohydrates to proteins, as well as the inclusion of sufficient micronutrients, seems to be favourable in the maintenance of cognitive function in the elderly. Glucose can enhance cognitive function, but a rapid decline of glucose levels may impair cognitive function or may induce feelings of lack of energy. Low doses of caffeine may also enhance cognitive function, although most studies on caffeine and cognition, as with studies on glucose and cognition, have not been carried out in elderly individuals. The effects of nutritional supplements are modest but do not seem to be very different from those of medicinal or investigational cognition-enhancing or anti-dementia drugs.

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