Doctor's Casebook: Red wine and cheese may protect your brain function

Moderation in all things is the best of rules

By Dr Keith Souter
Saturday, 1st May 2021, 4:45 pm
Red wine and cheese in moderation may protect your brain function. Photo: Getty Images
Red wine and cheese in moderation may protect your brain function. Photo: Getty Images

The ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus wrote comedies and gave us one of the wisest pieces of health advice ever. His influence reached down over the centuries. Shakespeare used several of his plots in his plays, and the musical and film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was based on his early farces.

Yet despite the fact that he lived in a civilisation characterised by enjoying excesses, Plautus advocated ‘moderation in all things is the best of rules’. Essentially, Plautus’s advice is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and avoid excesses.

This advice is a good principle at any age, but as we get older we have to be take more care to avoid those foods that are bad for us and take those that are shown to be good.

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Interesting research recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that the foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive function in our later years.

This based on research by Iowa State University based on data collected from over 1,700 ageing adults between the ages of 44 and 77 years in the UK.

The participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of touchscreen questionnaire at entry to the study and then in two follow-up assessments over 10 years. The FIT analysis gives an assessment of how well you can think on the spur of the moment, so its gives an idea about your cognitive function.

They also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at all of the assessments. They used the Food Frequency Questionnaire, which asked participants about their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables, and types of meat, fish, cereals, tea and coffee, and all types of alcohol.

They find four significant findings which showed that certain foods and drinks were protective of cognitive function.

Firstly, cheese was the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even into old age.

Secondly, wine, especially red wine was relative to improvement in cognitive function.

Thirdly, having lamb every week was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess, which other red meats did not show.

Lastly, excessive salt intake seemed to have a detrimental effect, but only in those already at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.