Study Links This Diet to a Higher Risk of Dementia

Avoiding high-sodium foods and adopting a high-potassium diet may help ward off dementia, according to a new Chinese study.

The researchers found that older people who consumed a high-sodium diet — greater than 5,593 milligrams of sodium per day — had a greater risk of memory impairment.

Memory impairment was also more likely in those with a sodium-to-potassium ratio greater than 3.8 per day, meaning that the amount of sodium they consumed was more than 3.8 times the amount of potassium they consumed.

In contrast, potassium intake of more than 1,653 milligrams per day appears to improve cognitive performance. Potassium-rich foods include nuts, winter squash and bananas.

Cognitive test scores continued to improve each time someone reduced their sodium intake by 1,000 milligrams a day and replaced it with potassium.

In summarizing the findings, Ai Zhao, the corresponding author of the study, said:

“Based on our findings, it is reasonable to suggest that reducing sodium intake, and properly increasing potassium intake, is beneficial for cognitive function.”

The study, published in the scientific journal Global Transitions, has particular resonance in China, where sodium intake is much higher than in other countries, according to the researchers. While the World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 1,400 milligrams per day of sodium for people between the ages of 50 and 79, the Chinese population has an average intake of 4,830 milligrams per day.

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