Home | Specialty Focus | Let them eat cake a no-brainer: New cake for cognitive decline
Master pastry chef, Christopher Thé (left) and UNSW’s food and health expert, Professor Johannes le Coutre (right) have made an 'unforgettable cake'. Picture: Supplied / UNSW

Let them eat cake a no-brainer: New cake for cognitive decline

The University of New South Wales (UNSW), in collaboration with Meals on Wheels NSW, has developed a brain-friendly cake to help seniors with cognitive decline.

Food and health expert at UNSW Professor Johannes le Coutre, and senior principal research scientist at NeuRa Professor Kaarin Anstey, have made a cake using ingredients that are beneficial to the brain while highlighting the issue of cognitive decline among senior Australians.

Using his background in food and nutrition, Professor le Coutre helped conceptualise the cake, but said the project was new territory for him.

"When I was first approached about this project, I was intrigued by the challenge of creating a cake that may be beneficial to cognition, using ingredients from different food groups, while also providing an experience for Meals on Wheels customers," he said.

"We had to consider both ingredients and texture – including how to minimise sugar and how to ensure the cake’s texture was suitable for individuals who suffer from dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, which is a concern for some older Australians.

"Using the currently available scientific evidence, we came up with a list of foods that are understood to provide quality nutrition – which is really important as we age – while still allowing for the nostalgic enjoyment of eating a slice of cake."

More than 400,000 Australians live with dementia, with 70 per cent of aged-care residents living with moderate to severe cognitive impairments, including dementia.

That number is estimated to jump to 900,000 in the next 25 years, with the Intergenerational Report estimating Australia's older population will triple.

Brain food: These natural ingredients are believed to benefit the brain. Picture: Supplied / UNSW

While some foods are known to have some direct neuroprotective properties, long-term dietary behaviours also impact a person’s weight and general health – and risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Professor Anstey said that these chronic diseases then increase the risk of cognitive decline.

"If a person exhibits signs of cognitive decline, diet alone won’t dramatically improve their brain health," she said.

"The studies that linked healthier diets to reduced risk of dementia were measuring dietary patterns [that] probably reflect how people have been eating for many years.

"Having said that, if someone has a very unhealthy diet with very few or even no fresh fruit and veggies, then changing to a healthy diet will make them feel a lot better. They may notice changes due to overall better health and mental health."

Dubbed 'The Unforgettable Cake', it was developed by master pastry chef Christopher Thé – founder of Black Star Pastry, and originator of the Instagram-famous watermelon cake.

The cake includes only natural ingredients that are believed to be beneficial to the brain, such as beetroot, spinach, turmeric, olive oil, and blueberries.

Mr Thé used a mix of spinach, beetroot, turmeric, and olive oil for the cake itself.

Beetroot is known to have neuro-protective properties that can improve blood flow through the brain, consequently improving cognitive function and cognition.

Olive oil has the ability to protect the brain, support memory, and reduce Alzheimer's biomarkers.

The cake also includes sweeteners like honey, which has anti-inflammatory qualities and vanilla ermine frosting – a universally loved cake flavour.

The cake was finished with fresh blueberries, which are loaded with essential nutrients such as polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and phytonutrients, helping to stimulate blood flow and oxygen in the brain.

Whilst no clinical work has been conducted with the cake or all its components at once, each of the ingredients has proven to have benefits to the brain.

"This is a great example of how you can take something as fun and joyous as a birthday celebration to shine a light on some of the issues faced by our ageing population today," said Professor le Coutre.

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One comment

  1. What are the key ingredients used in the cake created by Professor Johannes le Coutre and Professor Kaarin Anstey that are specifically chosen for their brain-health benefits? How does the creation of this cake serve as a means to address and highlight the issue of cognitive decline among senior Australians?
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