Shake the salt habit for better brain health

A study led by researchers at Baycrest — in collaboration with colleagues at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, McGill University and the Université de Sherbrooke — shows that high-sodium diets coupled with low physical activity can be detrimental to the brain health of older adults.

The study followed the sodium consumption and physical activity levels of 1,262 Quebec men and women (ages 67 to 84) over three years. While a low salt diet is known to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, this is believed to be the first study to show a health benefit to the brains of older adults.

“The results of our study show that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,” said Dr. Alexandra Fiocco, a scientist with Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied and Evaluative Research Unit and the study’s lead investigator. “But the good news is that, provided they had a low sodium intake, sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them.”

Health Canada recommends that people 14 years of age and older consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of dietary salt per day. In the Baycrest study, participants were ranked as low- medium- or high-sodium consumers, with the highest consumption recorded at 8,098 milligrams a day.

Photo © Ekaterina Minaeva

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