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How a Traditional Japanese Diet Can Help Stave Off Dementia, Especially for Women

Traditional Japanese Diet Could Help Stave Off Dementia

Traditional Japanese Diet Could Help Stave Off Dementia

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Published on April 9, 2024, 10:34 a.m. ET


A new study suggests that a traditional Japanese diet may be beneficial in preventing dementia and cognitive decline in women. The research highlights the potential health benefits of a diet rich in seafood, miso, mushrooms, and green tea. This article discusses the study’s findings and the unique qualities of the traditional Japanese diet.

Traditional Japanese Diet for Brain Health

Researchers have found that following a traditional Japanese diet can help stave off dementia among women. The diet, which primarily consists of rice, fish, shellfish, citrus fruits, seaweed, miso, green tea, pickles, and mushrooms, has been associated with a wide range of health benefits. These components contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for brain health.

Study Details

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, examined a sample of 1,636 Japanese individuals aged 40 to 89. Among the participants, 589 followed a traditional Japanese diet, 697 followed a Western diet, and 350 followed a primarily plant-based diet. Brain atrophy, an indicator of cognitive decline and dementia, was measured using regular MRI scans over a two-year period.

Findings and Key Differences

The study found that women who adhered to the traditional Japanese diet demonstrated less brain shrinkage compared to those who followed a Western diet. The beneficial effects were observed solely among women. Men, regardless of the type of diet, did not exhibit any noticeable brain differences. Researchers speculate that both biological and lifestyle factors contribute to these differences.

Importance of Lifestyle Factors

Various lifestyle factors play a role in this observed gender disparity. Negative habits, such as smoking, which counteract the positive effects of a healthy diet, are more prevalent in men. Men were also more likely to deviate from a strictly traditional diet, consuming higher quantities of refined carbs, noodles, and alcohol. The traditional Japanese diet underscores the importance of a healthy lifestyle in maintaining brain health.

Japan’s Role as a Blue Zone

Japan is known for its population’s longer lifespan, healthier lives, and lower rates of chronic disease compared to many other parts of the world. Just 6.7% of people in Okinawa, one of Japan’s “blue zones,” have dementia, as opposed to over 11% in the United States. The traditional Japanese diet, with its abundance of polyphenols, phytochemicals, and unsaturated fatty acids, contributes to Japan’s enviable health statistics.

Overall, consuming a traditional Japanese diet may have significant benefits for brain health, particularly for women. The diet’s nutritional composition, featuring essential components known for their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, contributes to maintaining optimal brain function. This study sheds light on the potential of diet in preventing dementia and cognitive decline.

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