Study Finds Vegetarian Diet Associated With Better Memory/Language Abilities Compared to Non-Vegetarians

According to a new study there is no difference in “processing speed, executive function, or memory/language abilities” between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and “vegetarians was associated with better memory/language abilities”. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics and was epublished by the National Institute of Health.

“We explored effects on cognitive function of following plant-based vegetarian compared with non-vegetarian dietary patterns in otherwise healthy older community-dwelling members of the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort”, states the study’s abstract.

For the study, cognition was assessed “using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery; a principal components analysis derived processing speed, executive function, and memory/language factors.” Mild memory impairment was identified by memory tests.

Researchers found that “This exploratory study did not support differences in processing speed, executive function, or memory/language abilities between vegetarians and non-vegetarians but did suggest that a more stable dietary pattern which was characteristic of vegetarians was associated with better memory/language abilities.”

Below is the study’s full abstract:

We explored effects on cognitive function of following plant-based vegetarian compared with non-vegetarian dietary patterns in otherwise healthy older community-dwelling members of the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort (n = 132). Cognition was assessed using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery; a principal components analysis derived processing speed, executive function, and memory/language factors. Mild memory impairment (MMI) (n = 26, 19.7%) was identified by memory tests. Vegetarians consumed (a) meats, fish, and dairy <1 time/month, (b) dairy ≥1 time/month and meats, and fish <1 time/month, or (c) fish ≥1 time/month, no limits on dairy, and meats <1 time/month. Dietary patterns were determined at baseline, for each decade, and at cognitive assessment; a diet stability score was calculated. Factor scores were not different between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, nor was dietary pattern associated with a lower odds of MMI. A more stable diet over the life course was associated with better memory/language [β = 0.021 SE(β) = 0.008; p = 0.01]. This exploratory study did not support differences in processing speed, executive function, or memory/language abilities between vegetarians and non-vegetarians but did suggest that a more stable dietary pattern which was characteristic of vegetarians was associated with better memory/language abilities.

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