A cup of tea for breakfast, a spinach leaf salad for lunch and a glass of red wine for dinner may reduce the risk of developing dementia, according to new research.
People who eat or drink more foods high in antioxidant flavonols — plant compounds linked to a variety of health benefits — appear to have slower cognitive decline, researchers say.
Scientists at the Rush Medical Center in Chicago recruited 961 people with an average age of 81 who did not have dementia for their seven-year study.
Each year, participants completed a questionnaire about how often they ate certain foods and completed annual cognitive and memory tests, which included memorizing word lists, remembering numbers and putting them in the correct order.
They were then divided into five equal groups based on the amount of flavanols they had in their diet.
On average, the participants had an average dietary intake of about 10 milligrams (mg) of total flavanols per day.
The lowest group had an intake of about 5 mg per day, while the highest group consumed an average of 15 mg per day – the equivalent of one cup of dark leafy greens or three to four cups of tea.
A cup of tea for breakfast, a spinach leaf salad for lunch and a glass of red wine for dinner may reduce the risk of developing dementia, according to new research (file)
Rates of dementia fall thanks to health-conscious generation, study finds
Dementia rates in America have fallen by a third in the past two decades, even as more people are living with the condition than ever before.
Researchers say less smoking and better education about diet and other risk factors led to the relatively rapid decline.
About 8.5 percent of Americans over age 65 were estimated to have had the memory robbery disorder in 2016 — the last year — compared to 12.2 percent in 2000.
But a fast-growing and aging population means the raw number of people with dementia has grown by more than 200,000 in that time to 4.2 million, the researchers said.
More current figures suggest that about 7 million Americans have dementia — although there is growing evidence that the numbers are slowing in developed countries.
The number of adults with dementia is expected to double in the next three decades, says the Alzheimer’s Association, to nearly 13 million.
Experts from California-based research organization RAND, which conducted the latest study, said trends following the Covid pandemic were “uncertain.”
To measure cognitive decline, researchers used a global scoring system that includes 19 different tests.
Analysis revealed that people who had the highest flavonol intakes had a 32 percent reduction in their rate of cognitive decline compared to those who had the lowest.
The study also found that those who got most of their flavonols from things like kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli had the slowest cognitive decline.
However, those who also consumed tomatoes, apples, tea, wine and oranges also saw a benefit.
Study author Thomas Holland said: ‘It is exciting that our research shows that making specific food choices can lead to slower cognitive decline.
“Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in keeping their brains healthy.
“Ultimately, I want people to know that it’s never too early or too late to start making healthy lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to nutrition.
“The research presented here adds to the ever-growing body of evidence that what we eat matters.”
Commenting on the findings, Dr Sara Imarisio, head of strategic initiatives at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Our diet is just one factor that can influence our brain health, and researchers are still trying to determine the extent to which specific dietary components such as flavonols affect our brain. our memory and thinking ability.
Previous studies indicate that flavonols may help protect brain cells from damage, which has led researchers to explore their potential role in slowing cognitive decline.
‘This new study also looks at how different types of flavonols may affect our brain health – something that has not been explored in detail before.
‘While the researchers tried to determine how flavonols play a role in slowing cognitive decline, it’s always difficult to rule out other factors that could influence the results of this kind of research.
‘Since the participants at the start of this study were on average 81 years old, their lifestyle in the years leading up to the study probably influenced their risk of cognitive decline.
“What we can say now is that there is a wealth of evidence pointing to eating a balanced diet as a way to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
“A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, along with plenty of exercise and not smoking, contributes to good heart health, which in turn helps protect our brains from diseases that lead to cognitive impairment or dementia.”
“Controlling our diet and physical activity throughout our lives is a critical step toward better brain health in later life.”
The findings were published in the journal Neurology.