A recent study suggests that older folks who are unfussy about what they eat have better cognitive function than their picky peers.

According to Nature Mental Health, a U.K. Biobank study analyzed the food likes and dislikes of nearly 182,000 older Brits, but rather than focusing on the effects of a specific diet, the team explored the link between the preferences of participants and their mental well-being.

After analyzing the data, a trend emerged; people with a broad palette and an omnivorous approach to eating fared better in cognitive testing than those with limited preferences or strict exclusions. These findings indicate that a limited diet; vegan, vegetarian, high-protein etc. may not be our best bet for brain health.

The study’s results “demonstrate that specific food preferences have significant associations with mental health, cognitive functions, blood and metabolic biomarkers and brain imaging,” Rebecca MacPherson, an associate professor at Brock University in Ontario, Canada said in an email to the Washington Post.

In one of the largest and longest health research studies in the world, U.K. Biobank volunteers were asked to complete a food ranking questionnaire that rated their preferences for 140 foods and beverages using a scale of 1-9, in which 1 represents “extremely dislike” and 9 represents “extremely like.”

The questionnaire included 10 categories: alcohol, beverages, dairy, flavorings, fruits, fish, meat, snacks, starches, and vegetables. Researchers found that 57 percent of participants showed a balanced preference across all categories. Of the remaining population, 18 percent preferred starch-free or reduced starch foods, 19 percent opted for a protein-heavy, fiber-light diet, and the remaining 5 percent favored a vegetarian diet.

Contrary to conventional wisdom and according to researcher Wei Cheng, those who fell into the vegetarian category, “exhibited a heightened susceptibility” to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental distress. In addition, respondents who reported a preference for high protein and low fiber were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and “diminished well-being.”

Researchers believe that a more balanced, less restrictive diet may be the key to maintaining cognition as we age, these experts describe a “balanced” diet as one that includes vegetables, fruits, cereals, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, and fish.

Yet, the picture of palettes and the line between what we eat and cognitive function may not be as clear as the study suggests.

As the Washington Post notes, participants in the U.K. Biobank tend to be comparatively healthier than the general population. In addition, the data only shows the association between preferences and mental health, not actual food consumption indicating that people who prefer certain food groups could have other characteristics that influence mental health.

The Biobank study does support other research that illustrates the relationship between what we eat and our overall brain function.

While the ‘Western diet,’ chock full of sugar and saturated fat, is linked to decreased cognitive function and depressive symptoms, making us fat, stupid, and potentially impotent the Japanese diet, which favors fish, rice, and fermentation has been found to stave off dementia. Similarly, the much-lauded and well-balanced Meditteranean diet has been shown to support brain function as we age.

And the benefits of living Med life don’t stop there, The Post reports that the diet may help reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder via the gut microbiome while other studies showed that those who stick to the diet may reduce their odds of premature death by 29%.

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