SNAP benefits from slowing memory decline in senior recipients

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The US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program is designed to help low-income Americans pay for food, but it could have an added benefit: slowing memory decline in older adults.

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That’s one of the findings of a new study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, published last week. Researchers found that older Americans who were eligible for and used the benefits of SNAP had about two fewer years of cognitive aging over a 10-year period compared to those who did not use SNAP, Science Daily reported.

SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal program that provides food assistance to low-income households. It is overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture, but administered at the state level.

The Columbia study was published online in “Neurology,” the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It assessed 3,555 people eligible for SNAP. The average age of participants was 66, and 559 were SNAP users and 2,996 were eligible but did not use SNAP.

As noted by Science Daily, the researchers measured memory function every two years over two decades. The researchers asked the participants to take memory and thinking tests, such as recalling a list of words and answering questions about what they could remember in their daily lives.

The study found that SNAP users had worse memory scores at the start of the study, but experienced memory decline at a slower rate than non-users over the course of the study. Compared to non-SNAP users, participants who used SNAP had about two fewer years of cognitive aging over a 10-year period.

“While the primary goal of SNAP is to reduce food insecurity for low-income households and increase access to more and better food, eating healthier can also benefit health. of the brain,” said Dr. Peiyi Lu, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia’s Mailman School. in a report. “SNAP may also reduce stress and overall financial hardship, which has been linked to premature cognitive aging and reduced brain health. Future research should explore these underlying impacts.

The term “cognitive aging” refers to age-related changes in the ability to think, learn, remember, plan and solve problems, CNN reported. Health problems such as high blood pressure linked to poor diet and poor lifestyle choices can damage areas of the brain responsible for memory and thinking. Older people can lower their risk by eating healthier foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP benefits give them the buying power to buy more of these types of foods.

“With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias expected to increase, this low turnout [in SNAP] is a huge missed opportunity for the prevention of dementia,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School, in a statement.

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From a financial perspective, now is a particularly good time to sign up for SNAP benefits. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, beneficiaries will benefit from a 12.5% ​​cost of living adjustment for fiscal year 2023. The COLA came into effect on October 1 and will run until September 30, 2023. For the vast majority of Americans, the increase translates to an additional $104 per month in the maximum allowance for a four-person household.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Food stamp study: SNAP benefits slow memory decline in senior beneficiaries

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