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Study: No link between higher cholesterol intake and dementia

Findings from a Finnish university research team suggest that eating an egg a day actually improves cognitive retention.

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A new study finds a positive link between egg intake and memory functions. Image: Mimmi Nietula / Yle

Research from the University of Eastern Finland has deduced that people with higher choline intake have a 28 percent lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. A nutrient known as phosphatidylcholine found in eggs and other foods was isolated as having a particular effect.

High serum cholesterol levels have been linked not only to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, but also to an increased risk of memory disorders. The Finnish study adds to growing research that disproves this notion. On the contrary, the study finds that the consumption of eggs was associated with better results in certain tests measuring cognitive performance.

The Finnish researchers say the finding is noteworthy, as over 50 million people in the world contract cognitive diseases that lead to dementia. The number will only increase as the population grows older.

"The observation is intriguing, but we need a significant amount of new research before we can say anything for sure," says Maija Ylilauri, a member of the research team.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in late July.

An egg a day keeps Alzheimer's away?

The study examined a sample of close to 2,500 men between the ages of 42 and 60, culled from a population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study from the 1980s. Researchers assessed the dietary intakes from a cohort of 1,259 of the participants.

During a 22-year follow-up period, 337 of the men were diagnosed with a memory disorder, 266 with Alzheimer's disease.

The subjects observed in the study received an average of 188 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine daily. About 39 percent of this was obtained by eating eggs, and another 37 percent was from meat intake. One egg contains about 130 milligrams of the vital nutrient.

The participants in the study who had a higher choline intake than the other cohorts also fared better on tests evaluating memory functions and language fluency. Beyond eggs and meat, other foods with high choline content include fruits, berries, vegetables, and grains.

Researcher Ylilauri however notes that many other things about a person's lifestyle – above and beyond diet – are associated with the risk of memory disorders.

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