Can Doing These Things Delay the Onset of Dementia?

Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 26th of January 2016.


It seems that every day new articles pop up on social media and the internet claiming to have found the latest miracle activity or foodstuff that can delay or prevent the onset of dementia. As with anything you read online (ourselves not included, of course!) it’s important to take this information with a pinch of salt and do your own research into just how true these stories are. To help you along, we’ve taken a look at some of the most recent claims to get to the bottom of whether they’re true or false.

Drink three glasses of Champagne a week

What’s the story? A study recently went viral claiming that drinking three glasses of the fizzy stuff a week could prevent dementia. Apparently, a compound found in pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes can help to ward off brain disease and improve spatial memory.

Our verdict: The study by Reading University was actually published back in 2013 so we’re not sure why it’s surfacing now. Most of the articles and stories on the report also failed to take into account that the study only took place on rats (and a small group of rats, at that) with no evidence that ingestion of the compound would work on humans. We hate to burst the bubbly but this too-good-to-be-true story looks like it’s just that.

Take up learning a new language

What’s the story? Glasgow-based Lingo Flamingo is a new scheme set up to help people with or at risk of dementia. Tutors across Scotland will lead lessons and interactive workshops designed both to help people learn new languages and to delay the onset of cognitive impairment.

Our verdict: Unlike food-based rumours which often rely on a new ‘miracle’ ingredient, this story has a firm grounding in science. In fact recent studies have shown that people who are bilingual or multilingual can develop dementia anywhere between four to five years later than someone who can only speak one language. Scientists believe that the constant switching between two languages takes effort and concentration consistent with other ‘brain training’ activities such as jigsaw puzzles. Perhaps it’s time to say hola, bonjour, hallo, or kon’nichiwa to a new language!

Play video games

What’s the story? While a lot of outlets led with a variation on ‘playing video games delays onset of dementia’ headlines, this study was actually only based on 3D gaming. 3D games are said to boost spatial awareness and stimulate the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory) in a way that could delay the effects of dementia.

Our verdict: This is a grey area for our grey matter. Firstly it’s important to note, as a lot of articles didn’t, that this study only related to 3D games, which are not always widely available. Secondly, these misleading headlines could cause people to believe the same of 2D gaming which has actually been suggested by other studies to have a negative effect on the hippocampus. Truth is, not enough is known about the effects of either to give us a definitive answer. We say partake in a little gaming if you enjoy it but you’re probably better off sticking to dementia games instead!