Dementia affects over 55 million individuals globally, and its incidence has gradually increasing. The population is predicted to quadruple by 2050, with the greatest growth occurring in low- and middle-income nations. Dementia not only diminishes people’s quality of life, but it also imposes huge financial costs on families and society meal.
Epidemiological studies have found a link between the time distribution of energy intake throughout the day (TPEI) and the risk of developing chronic illnesses including diabetes and hypertension. However, research on the link between TPEI and cognitive performance in the general population is limited. Previous research in animal models has demonstrated that disrupting meal time might change clock rhythms in the hippocampus, impacting cognitive performance.
A short-term intervention study of 96 young people found that splitting similar amounts of food over four meals between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. improved cognitive performance more than eating twice between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. However, long-term research on TPEIs and cognitive performance is insufficient.
Recently, Drs Changzheng Yuan and Dongmei Yu at Zhejiang University published a paper in Life Metabolism entitled “Temporal patterns of energy intake and cognitive function and its decline: a community-based cohort study in China” Based on the China Nutrition Health Survey (CHNS) public database, a total of 3,342 participants were included in this study, who were middle-aged and older adults (mean age 62 years) from nine provinces in China with a baseline age >= 55 years.
The researchers used: 1) A data-driven k-means algorithm to identify six patterns of TPEIs, including “evenly-distributed” pattern, “breakfast-dominant” pattern, “lunch-dominant” pattern, “dinner-dominant” pattern, “snack-rich” pattern, and “breakfast-skipping” pattern; 2) Cognitive function was assessed using the modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS-m), comprising immediate and delayed word recalls (20 points), backward counting (2 points), and serial-7 subtraction test (5 points).
The total global cognitive score ranged from 0 to 27, with a higher score representing a better cognitive function; 3) The correlation of TPEIs to cognitive function over 10 years was assessed using linear mixed models (LMMs), which were adjusted for age, gender, residence, total energy, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, household income, education level, and body mass index (BMI).
The result showed that, compared with those with an “evenly-distributed” pattern, the long-term cognitive function scores were significantly lower in those who had unbalanced TPEIs, especially those with a “breakfast-skipping” pattern. Thus, maintaining balanced TPEIs has potentially positive effects on cognitive health, whereas skipping breakfast may significantly increase the risk of cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults. In conclusion, this study highlights the importance of optimal TPEIs in cognitive function.