Cognitive Decline Causes: Not beer, not soft drinks, this is what might fog your brain: Study reveals |

Our nutrition and lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on cognitive function, recent research highlights the importance of smoking – a component that is less talked about but no less important. While sugar-filled sodas and excessive alcohol intake may worry us, smoking appears to be the biggest lifestyle factor contributing to accelerated cognitive decline.

What does the study say?


A recent study led by researchers at University College London (UCL) and published in Nature Communications reveals alarming insights into how smoking impacts brain health. The research analysed data from 32,000 adults aged 50 and over across 14 European countries, tracking their cognitive function over ten years. The participants were evaluated on their memory and verbal fluency, with their lifestyles grouped based on smoking status, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and social interaction.

The alarming findings

The study found that cognitive decline was significantly faster among smokers compared to non-smokers. Specifically, cognitive scores for smokers declined up to 85% more over ten years than those of non-smokers. This stark difference highlights smoking as a major contributor to faster cognitive ageing.

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Dr Mikaela Bloomberg from UCL’s Department of Behavioral Science and Health, the lead author of the study, remarked, “Our study is observational, so it cannot definitively establish cause and effect. However, it suggests smoking might be a particularly important factor influencing the rate of cognitive ageing.”
The research also uncovered that smokers who maintained healthy lifestyles in other areas – such as engaging in regular exercise, consuming alcohol in moderation, and socialising frequently – experienced a rate of cognitive decline similar to non-smokers. This shows that while smoking is detrimental, adopting other healthy habits can mitigate some of its negative effects.

This study highlights the importance of an overall approach to health. While it has been well-documented that healthy behaviours like regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption, and social engagement contribute to slower cognitive decline, this research emphasises that not smoking is particularly important for maintaining cognitive function.

“Previous evidence suggests individuals who engage in more healthy behaviours have slower cognitive decline; however, it was unclear whether all behaviours contributed equally,” Dr. Bloomberg noted. “Our findings suggest that among the healthy behaviours we examined, not smoking may be among the most important in terms of maintaining cognitive function.”


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