Memory Games: Eating Well to Remember

UTS health researchers have found strong links between diet, memory loss and comorbid heart disease.

The study pointed to a need for age-specific healthy eating guidelines. Photo: Wesual Click/Unsplash

A healthy diet is essential to living well, but should we change what we eat as we age?

UTS research fellow Dr Luna Xu has studied data from approximately 139,000 older Australians and found strong links between certain food groups, memory loss and comorbid heart disease or diabetes.

Dr Xu found high consumption of fruit and vegetables was linked to lowered odds of memory loss and its comorbid heart disease. High consumption of protein-rich foods was associated with a better memory.

Dr Xu also found the link between food group and memory status may vary among different older age groups. People aged 80 years and over with a low consumption of cereals are at the highest risk of memory loss and its comorbid heart disease, her research showed.

“Our present study implies that the healthy eating suggestions of cereals consumption in the prevention of memory loss and comorbid heart disease for older people may differ compared to other age groups,” said Dr Xu, who has received a Heart Foundation postdoctoral research fellowship.

She said the study pointed to a need for age-specific healthy dietary guidelines.

“The dietary intervention in chronic disease prevention and management, by taking into consideration the fact that older populations often simultaneously deal with multiple chronic conditions, is a real challenge,” Dr Xu said.

“To achieve the best outcome for our ageing population, strong scientific evidence that supports effective dietary intervention in preventing and managing co-occurring chronic conditions, is essential.”

Memory loss is one of the main early symptoms for people with dementia, which is the second leading cause of death of Australians. People living with dementia have on average between two and eight comorbid conditions, which may accelerate cognitive and functional impairment. The most common comorbidities in dementia include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hypertension.

Dr Xu and her co-researchers used data collected by the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere.

The study is published in the International Journal of Public Health.

Source: UTS

Sardinian Fish Stew


1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 green bell peppers (capsicums), sliced
4 cloves garlic, 3 finely chopped, 1 whole
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 pounds mixed firm white fish fillets or steaks, such John Dory, sea bass, flounder, cod, ling, monkfish, grouper, tilapia
salt and fresh, ground black pepper
4 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, dill, oregano
6 slices firm Italin-style bread, toasted


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and chopped garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and wine, bring to a boil, then simmer until the mixture reduces a little, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the firmer seafood and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the more delicate fish and enough water to cover and simmer until the fish flakes easily when tested with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes.
    Stir in the fresh herbs, reserving a little for the garnish.

  5. Rub the toast with the remaining whole clove of garlic and place a slice in each soup bowl.
  6. Ladle the soup over the top, garnish with the reserved herbs, and serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Modern Mediterranean Cooking

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Western Diet Rich in Fat and Sugar Linked to Skin Inflammation

A Western diet rich in fat and sugar may lead to inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis, a study by UC Davis Health researchers has found.

The study, published today in Journal of Investigative Dermatology, suggests that dietary components, rather than obesity itself, may lead to skin inflammation and the development of psoriasis. A common and chronic skin disease, psoriasis causes skin cells to form scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.

Diet and Skin Inflammation

Previous studies have shown that obesity is a risk factor for the development or worsening of psoriasis. The Western diet, characterized by a high dietary intake of saturated fats and sucrose and low intake of fiber, has been linked to the increased prevalence of obesity in the world.

“In our study, we found that short-term exposure to Western diet is able to induce psoriasis before significant body weight gain,” said Sam T. Hwang, professor and chair of dermatology at UC Davis and senior author on the study.

For the UC Davis Health study, which used a mouse model, Hwang and his colleagues found that a diet containing both high fat and high sugar (mimicking the Western diet in humans) was required to induce observable skin inflammation. In four weeks only, mice on Western diet had significantly increased ear swelling and visible dermatitis compared to mice fed a controlled diet and those on high fat diet alone.

“Eating an unhealthy diet does not affect your waistline alone, but your skin immunity too,” said Zhenrui Shi, visiting assistant researcher in UC Davis Department of Dermatology and lead author on the study.

Bile Acids and Skin Inflammation

The study detailed the mechanisms by which inflammation happens following a Western diet. It identified bile acids as key signaling molecules in the regulation of skin immunity. Bile acids are produced in the liver from cholesterol and metabolized in the intestine by the gut microbiota. They play an important role in dietary lipid absorption and cholesterol balance in the blood.

The study found that cholestyramine, a drug used to lower cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids in the intestine, helped reduce the risk of skin inflammation. The finding suggests that bile acids mediate the development of psoriasis. The binding of cholestyramine to bile acids in the gut and its subsequent release through the stool allows for lowering of skin inflammation.

Further studies are needed to understand the mechanism behind diet-induced skin inflammation and the interaction between metabolism, microbes and immunity.

Source: UC Davis

Recommended Diuretic Drug Tied to Harmful Side Effects

Patients taking a common diuretic to help lower blood pressure may be better off with a similarly effective but safer one, a new study suggests.

Current guidelines recommend the drug chlorthalidone (Thalitone) as the first-line diuretic. But it can have serious side effects that can be avoided with another diuretic, hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril), researchers say.

“Diuretics are recognized as among the best drugs to treat hypertension, but there are no randomized studies to help decide which diuretic is best,” said lead author Dr. George Hripcsak, head of biomedical informatics at Columbia University in New York City.

Hydrochlorothiazide is the world’s most-used diuretic, but chlorthalidone is gaining favor because it is longer acting and, therefore, might be more effective, Hripcsak said.

Guidelines from both the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend chlorthalidone for that reason.

But the new study found that patients taking chlorthalidone were three times more likely than those taking hydrochlorothiazide to have dangerously low levels of potassium and other electrolyte imbalances, as well as kidney problems.

Six percent of patients taking chlorthalidone had low potassium, compared with 2% of those taking hydrochlorothiazide. The rate remained the same even with lower doses of chlorthalidone, the researchers found.

“If you are taking chlorthalidone, then your physician should be monitoring your electrolytes and kidney function carefully,” Hripcsak said.

For the study, his team reviewed 17 years of data on more than 730,000 patients treated for high blood pressure.

While both drugs were equally effective in preventing heart attack and hospitalization for heart failure and stroke, chlorthalidone had a higher risk of side effects, the study found. Those side effects include low potassium, which can trigger abnormal heart rhythms; low salt, which can cause confusion; kidney failure; and type 2 diabetes.

This is not the first study to point out these side effects of chlorthalidone, the study authors said.

“Until stronger evidence comes out to the contrary, I believe this study tips the scales toward hydrochlorothiazide for people taking a diuretic for high blood pressure,” said study co-author Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Krumholz predicted treatment guidelines might shift from a generic endorsement of chlorthalidone to a more specific statement about the drug that seems safer.

He added that both drugs seem equally effective and are both inexpensive. “The good news is that the better choice is the most commonly prescribed diuretic for hypertension,” Krumholz said.

The findings should prompt patients to discuss treatment options with their doctors, he noted.

“The evidence is strong, but it is not a clinical trial, so there remains some uncertainty,” Krumholz said. “But until stronger evidence is out, this study represents some of the best information we have — and it favors hydrochlorothiazide.”

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that because this study looked back at data, it can’t prove that one drug is better or safer than the other.

Fortunately, Fonarow said, a large randomized trial comparing these drugs is underway with a plan to enroll 13,500 people with high blood pressure. Results are expected in 2022.

In any case, the most important thing that people with high blood pressure can do is to keep their readings in check, Fonarow said.

“It is critical for individuals with high blood pressure to achieve and maintain recommended blood pressure goals with a well-tolerated medication regimen together with lifestyle modification,” he advised.

The report was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

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