Whole Grains Linked to Slower Cognitive Decline Among Elderly Black People in New Study

November 22, 2023

Older Black adults who ate more whole grains appeared to have decreased memory loss as they aged, according to a study released Wednesday.

Researchers at RUSH University Medical Center, in Chicago, found an association among elderly Black residents who consumed more daily servings of whole grains – such as a slice of dark bread for one serving – with lower levels of memory decline. This equated to being more than eight years younger than those who ate smaller amounts of whole grain. The study, published in the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal, showed a correlation, not causal evidence on whole grain. 

The findings, scientists said, warrant further research into the effects of whole grain, which groups like the American Heart Association have associated with lower risks of diabetes, hypertension and stroke that disproportionately affect Black people. The study may also help health care providers identify diets to promote healthy aging. This can be particularly important for Black people, who are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to white people.

Yian Gu, MD, MS, PhD

Yian Gu, MD, MS, PhD

“In terms of dietary patterns, it is not really a one-size-fits-all approach,” Xiaoran Liu, a study author and a RUSH assistant professor of internal medicine, told USA TODAY. “We do have to honor the cultural differences in terms of their diet. Results from this study can help clinicians, physicians or dietitians to further tailoring that precise nutrition recommendation.”

Dr. Yian Gu, an associate professor of neurological sciences at Columbia University Medical Center, said the study shows the need to account for social-cultural backgrounds to design dietary interventions to preserve cognition against Alzheimer’s disease. Gu, who was unaffiliated with the study, compared it to personalized medicine that looks at people’s genetic makeup to properly treat them.

“You need to take into account all the other factors when you design a prevention measure for populations,” she said. [read more]