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Put another steak on the grill: animal protein may deter cognitive decline

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The Ohasama study, spearheaded by Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, PhD, MPD, RD, of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan, suggests that a diet with higher animal protein content can help prevent a decline in cognitive ability in older adults.

The same group of just over 1000 people was studied for seven years. At a time when other current studies can show possible signals of cognitive decline as much as three years in advance, this is a cheerful addition to the literature, outlining a possible alternative discussion in advance of decline.

The study observed future declines in relation to prior protein-rich diets. The participants’ ages averaged 67.4 years, and they answered questionnaires about their diets not only initially but also seven years later.

They were divided into four groups, according to a summary on Science Daily online, that corresponded to the amount and kind of protein in their diets, including total protein, plant protein, and animal protein. The groups were tested for cognitive ability based on intellectual tasks, social tasks, and daily living self-care.

The male participants had a 39% less chance of functional decline in the group that had increased animal protein. The women in the groups weren’t affected by the diet change, and plant protein didn’t have the same effect as animal protein.

Linda Chalmer Zemel teaches at SUNY Buffalo State College. She also writes the Buffalo Books column.

Contact Linda at



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