This study looked to understand the effects of diet on cognitive abilities. The premise was to take people and put them into a diet program that focused on eating healthy. The study took 17 right-handed, white adult participants aged 35-69 that did not have dementia, but did complain of memory related issues. The group was then split into an experiment group and a control group. The experimental group was placed on a specific diet plan that the researchers believed would aid in brain function.
The diet plan was something made by another researcher (Small G, Vorgan G: The Memory Prescription. New York, Hyperion, 2004) and is ultimately impossible to locate. What the study suggests is that the experimental group had a system of memory exercises, particular foods to eat, and daily exercise regimens to follow. These instructions were the result of other studies that looked at different ways to combat dementia. The dietary needs were met via a plan that consisted of five daily meals emphasizing antioxidant fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fats, and low glycemic index carbohydrates. The control group were sent on their way to continue as normal.
At the end of the 14 days, the participants had their brains scanned via positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and were tested with various tests. What they found is that the experimental group’s brains had changes in their function. The results section discussed sections of the brain and how there were deceases in the PET images and how it relates to different metabolism rates within the brain. The more general discussion section stated that although there were shortcomings (discussed in the critique), the PET images showed that there were specific, and positive changes within the regions of the brain that controlled memory and verbal functions, changes that were statistically significant. The study concluded by stating a healthy lifestyle program improved measures of verbal fluency and reduced left dorsolateral prefrontal cortical metabolism, suggesting that such a program may result in greater cognitive efficiency of a brain region involved in working memory functions.
The study was another major medical study, as per every other study related to brain functions that seem to be selected for study. What made this study stronger is the use of a brain imaging system to peer into the brain to investigate the parts of the brain that control cognitive functions and their changes. That is strong evidence that a program is indeed working and changing how the brain works. This in turn helps to cement the verbal experiment’s findings that the program and the diet actually worked. Where the study stumbles is in the group size. 17 people do make for a very small group, and the researchers do note this. Furthermore, the test group was not specifically monitored during their 14-day routine. However, the study notes this as well and states that sections of the brain were function higher than what would occur in a placebo effect. It summarizes what we have heard for a long time; diet and exercise is good for you. Now, how do you get IC analysts to lay off the Dunkin Doughnuts?
Small, G. W., Silverman, D. H. S., Siddarth, P., Ercoli, L. M., Miller, K. J., Lavretsky, H., … Phelps, M. E. (2006). Effects of a 14-day healthy longevity lifestyle program on cognition and brain function. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: Official Journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 14(6), 538–545. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.JGP.0000219279.72210.ca