Published: 13 October, 2011
by TOM FOOT
New research shows link between diet and brain function in old age
EVER get the feeling you are not quite as sharp as you once were?
Perhaps you have left home without your keys – again – or find you forget details from stories after just a few days?
The crossword clues are taking a little longer to solve, let alone the Sudoku.
It is a slow march to oblivion and cognitive decline.
Natural deterioration of cognitive skills like making rapid comparisons or puzzle-solving can begin before you reach your 30th birthday.
In an aging population – the fastest growing age group in this country is the 80-85 bracket – there has been an explosion of interest and research.
The Wellcome Trust, in Euston Road, has recently commissioned a play about cognitive decline starring actors from the Spare Tyre Company, which rehearses in Pirate Castle, Camden Town.
Actor Vicky Lee, a dentist for the past 40 years in Primrose Hill, performed in Still Life Dreaming, about an epic academic study monitoring the intelligence of a Scottish children through to adulthood.
In 1947, every Scottish schoolchild born in 1936, known as the Lothian Birth Cohort, sat an intelligence test. More than 1,000 of them re-sat the test aged 70.
Camden actors Jim Mulligan and Sieska Cowdrey were also in the show that explored the human stories behind the research and won four-star reviews following an acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival.
Ms Lee said: “Our audiences were lovely and lots of the Lothian Birth Cohort members came to see the show.
“What was interesting about the research was how some 70-year-olds were at the same level as some aged 11.”
Recent research found that a number of medical conditions including diabetes and atherosclerosis – the fatty clogging of arteries which can lead to heart attacks and strokes – can greatly increase the risk of cognitive decline in old age.
Abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and low levels of the “good cholesterol” also indicate cognitive impairment with age.
High fat, copper rich diets have also been associated with accelerated cognitive decline.
Ms Lee said she had been attending the Slimming World weight loss group in Camden Square, Camden Town.
She said: “I go to the group each week and I was recently elected woman of the year – and given a big sash. I lost 50lbs. It’s very interesting because you can eat as much food as you like – nothing is barred. I like it because it’s very doable.”