Coffee shops, fast food restaurants may benefit cognitive function in older people

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When you think of fast food, you don’t normally think of good health, but places such as the Golden Arches and neighborhood cafes may provide a small cognitive benefit to older adults during their golden years.

In a new study, researchers found that older adults’ regular visits to eateries such as fast-food restaurants and coffee shops may be as protective of cognitive health as marriage.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Michigan.

Traditionally, fast food has a negative relationship with cognition—diets high in saturated fat cholesterol are linked to increased risk of cognitive decline.

It has been criticized in public health literature because it can offer unhealthy food choices.

In the study, the team focused on how neighborhoods may help buffer against or increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

They hypothesized that regular socialization and leisure activities anchored in these places might be linked to cognitive health.

The team interviewed 125 older adults ages 55-92 in the Minneapolis metro area and accompanied them on visits to their neighborhood haunts.

Through analysis of the interviews, they found that older adults valued these types of eateries as places of familiarity and comfort; places that were physically and economically accessible; and places to socialize with family, friends, staff, and customers.

This research highlights the importance of informal places for social interaction for maintaining cognitive health with aging and raises important questions about the impact of their closure for the future rates of dementia in older Americans.

One author of the study is Jessica Finlay.

The study is published in Health and Place.

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