The Impact of the “Elderly Boom”
Advances in medicine and healthcare have turned diseases that were once considered fatal into “chronic conditions” that can be lived with for decades. One result of this advancement is that elderly populations are increasing around the world—together with health conditions that typically beset us in our older years, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and of course, dementia.
The incidence of dementia increases with age, and according to the World Health Organization, 60-70% of cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. As the world’s population increases, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase as well—from 47 million cases in 2015 to 131 million cases in 20501.
MSG May Help People with Dementia
In addition to the tremendous amount of effort and investment that is put into treating or preventing dementia medicinally, doctors and nutritionists are also keenly interested in the relationship between dementia and diet. Epidemiological studies have shown that intake of some foods should be limited, whereas others seem necessary to slow cognitive declineFor example, evidence is accumulating that dementia may be linked with insulin resistance and excessive glucose in the brain, which suggests that a specialized diet may be beneficial for these patients.
This past October, an exciting article was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers from Tottori University in Japan had conducted a study showing a potential benefit of MSG in people suffering from dementia2.
In this study, 159 patients with dementia were separated into two groups. In one group, 80 patients given diets with 0.26g salt added to each meal (3 meals/day), and in the other, 79 patients were given diets with 0.9g MSG added to each meal (3 meals/day). Dosage was determined such that the amount of sodium intake would be equal in each group. All of the subjects were given physical examinations, blood tests, questionnaires, and cognitive symptom tests before and after the 12-week experiment, and then 4 weeks later during a follow-up assessment.
Appetite loss is considered a major risk factor for dementia progression in elderly patients. It is theorized that the ability to taste umami may decrease with age, and that this contributes to a lack of enjoyment of food. In this study, adding MSG, and therefore increasing the umami taste in food, increased appetite and also increased cognitive function in elderly patients with dementia. This study indicates that the use of umami may inhibit dementia progress, and the researchers believe that further study may demonstrate a positive impact on disease onset.
A Growing Body of Evidence
Dementia, and its treatment, is one of the most rigorously investigated fields of study in modern medicine. Scientists and the researchers have been studying its causes, its relationship with risk factors such as diabetes, stroke and depression, and numerous medicinal and therapeutic approaches to cure, prevent or at least slow the progression of this debilitating condition.
The findings presented add to a growing body of evidence that MSG, umami, and amino acids appear to have a positive impact on a variety of elderly health issues, including dementia.
Potential Benefit of MSG
– Helps with swallowing
– Helps prevent dry mouth and taste disorder
– Contributes to oral hygiene
– Helps control appetite
– Accelerates digestion
– Helps reduce salt intake