The Mediterranean diet is known to be the pinnacle for healthy eating and living with new research being published about its benefits seemingly daily. This week’s Nutrition News article explores a recently published study that suggests the Mediterranean diet can support cognitive health as we age.

Find out more about this, and other recent nutritional studies, here.

Mediterranean diet shows promise in supporting cognitive health as we age

The elusive link between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive health may have found new clarity through a groundbreaking study taking a fresh approach to measuring dietary impact. Traditionally, relying on participants' self-reported diets has posed challenges due to inherent inaccuracies, however, this new research, reported in the article “Mediterranean diet may slow age-related cognitive decline” by Medical News Today, utilised blood serum biomarkers to directly measure diet-related components present in individuals' bloodstreams.

Conducted across two French regions, this study implemented a nested case-control approach to mitigate biases between cases experiencing cognitive decline and controls without it. By examining biomarkers in blood samples at the study's onset, researchers evaluated how elements of the Mediterranean diet influenced cognitive health over a 12-year period.

This innovative method led to a striking discovery; individuals adhering to the Mediterranean diet showcased a reduced likelihood of age-related cognitive decline. A scoring system, the Mediterranean Diet Metabolomic Score (MDMS), was devised to assess adherence to this diet based on the presence of specific metabolites in participants' blood serum.

Using the Three City Cohort as the study's foundation, blood samples from individuals aged 65 and older were analysed for 72 relevant metabolites. Those exhibiting the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet, as indicated by MDMS results, displayed a 10% and 9% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment in Bordeaux and Dijon regions, respectively.

Experts lauded this innovative approach, emphasising the significance of metabolites in understanding physiological states and food impact. Dr. Menka Gupta, a functional medicine doctor, highlighted how metabolites offer insights into an individual's physiological condition, shedding light on the promise of certain foods in investigating cognitive decline.

Michelle Routhenstein, a preventive cardiology dietitian, praised the study's departure from conventional food consumption tracking methods, emphasising the significance of assessing cognitive health via metabolomic signatures, marking a novel step in the field.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet, such as polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, were traced through metabolites, linking them to improved cognitive health. Dr. Austin Perlmutter, an internal medicine physician, highlighted polyphenols and omega-3s' association with normal cognitive health, reinforcing their role in preventing cognitive decline.

Moreover, Routhenstein highlighted the neuroprotective attributes of certain metabolites, including enterolactone from lignan consumption and oleic acid from monounsaturated fats, both known for their potential in supporting cognitive function.

This study's pioneering approach, examining metabolites instead of relying on self-reported diets, marks a significant stride in understanding the tangible benefits of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health, potentially reshaping dietary recommendations for cognitive well-being.

The role of vitamin B12 in tissue repair

Tissue regeneration, the process of reconstructing damaged tissues and organs, holds promise for supporting the body through various ailments like heart injuries, bone fractures, and inflammatory diseases. New evidence from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Spain, published in the article “Vitamin B12 could boost tissue repair, help treat ulcerative colitis”, suggests that vitamin B12 plays a pivotal role in cellular reprogramming and tissue regeneration.

Dr. Manuel Serrano, a co-lead author of the study, explained that during cellular reprogramming in test subjects, they observed changes in the microbiota indicative of a vitamin B12 shortage. This essential vitamin showed significant impacts on the body's repair mechanisms.

Previous research highlighted vitamin B12's role in aiding neurological tissue repair and bone health, even contributing to skin regeneration. The recent study demonstrated that vitamin B12 supplementation supported cell reprogramming efficiency, a crucial early phase of tissue repair.

Dr. Marta Kovatcheva, another co-lead author, elaborated on vitamin B12's significance in this process. She detailed how vitamin B12 is involved in vital metabolic reactions, particularly in the production of a chemical tag known as a 'methyl donor.' This tag modifies DNA and regulatory proteins, influencing cell behaviour, repair, and regeneration.

During injury or crucial repair periods, cells require substantial 'methyl tag' amounts, causing a partial B12 deficiency despite a healthy diet. Supplementation with vitamin B12 facilitated quicker and more extensive tissue repair during reprogramming.

This research offers crucial insights into vitamin B12's role in cellular processes, emphasising its potential in enhancing tissue repair and regeneration, opening new avenues for therapeutic and dietary interventions in supporting normal health.

Study shows probiotic to support digestive health

Two decades post the Human Genome Project's completion, scientists are now honing in on deciphering the human microbiome genome, a critical advancement poised to revolutionize healthcare.

The increasing speed of genome sequencing has enabled significant strides in comprehending how human genetics influence health and extended to decoding the genomes of our diverse microbiome organisms—bacteria, fungi, and viruses residing in and on our bodies.

The gut microbiome's role in various health conditions like heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and gut disorders has been recognised, however, altering the gut microbiome to enhance health has remained a challenge.

In a recent study, reported in the article “Particular strain of probiotic bacteria may improve chronic constipation”, researchers identified a strain of Bifidobacterium longum, or B. longum, beneficial in supporting the body against chronic constipation. Analysing 354 faecal samples across ages and regions, they isolated B. longum strains, sequencing their genomes. A specific genetic cluster named abfA showed enhanced utilisation of plant-based sugar, arabanin.

Dr. Shi Huang, a study author, emphasised how gene clusters in bacteria play a vital role in specific biological processes. They discovered these clusters adapted to utilise sugars present in the gut, facilitating tissue repair and reprogramming.

Testing on elderly participants with functional constipation revealed that B. longum strains carrying abfA clusters improved symptoms, highlighting the genetic factors essential for effective probiotic therapy.

While this research marks a promising step towards understanding microbiome genetics, experts caution about generalising findings across different populations and recommend exploring dietary modifications, including high-fibre foods, to alleviate constipation.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.