A cup of tea with breakfast, a leafy spinach salad for lunch and a glass of red wine for dinner could slash the risk of developing dementia, according to research.
People who have a higher intake of food or drink containing antioxidant flavonols – plant compounds linked to a variety of health benefits – appear to have a slower rate of cognitive decline, researchers say.
In a seven-year study, scientists from Rush Medical Centre in Chicago recruited 961 people with an average age of 81 who didn’t have dementia.
Participants filled out a questionnaire each year on how often they ate certain foods and completed cognitive and memory tests including recalling lists of words, 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, participants had an average dietary intake of approximately 10 milligrams (mg) of total flavanols per day.
The lowest group had an intake of about 5mg per day, while the highest group consumed an average of 15mg per day – the equivalent of one cup of dark leafy greens or three to four cups of tea.
A cup of tea with breakfast, a leafy spinach salad for lunch and a glass of red wine for dinner could slash the risk of developing dementia , according to research
People who have a higher intake of food or drink containing antioxidant flavonols – plant compounds linked to a variety of health benefits – appear to have a slower rate of cognitive decline, researchers say
Rates of dementia dropping thanks to health conscious generation, study finds
America’s dementia rates have fallen by a third in the past two decades — even though more people are living with the condition than ever before.
Researchers say lower smoking rates and better education about diet and other risk factors have led to the relatively rapid decline.
Some 8.5 per cent of Americans over 65 were estimated to have the memory-robbing disorder in 2016 — the latest year — compared to 12.2 per cent in 2000.
But a rapidly expanding and ageing population means the raw number of dementia sufferers grew by more than 200,000 to 4.2 million in that time, the researchers said.
More up to date figures suggest around seven million Americans have dementia — although evidence is mounting that across developed countries rates are slowing.
The number of adults with dementia is expected to double in the next three decades, the Alzheimer’s Association says, reaching nearly 13 million.
Experts at California-based research organization RAND, who carried out this study, said trends were ‘uncertain’ following the Covid pandemic.
To measure cognitive decline, researchers used a global score system which includes 19 different tests.
Analysis revealed people who had the highest intake of flavonols had a 32 per cent reduction in their rate of cognitive decline compared to those who had the lowest.
The study also found those who got most of their flavonols from the likes of kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli had the slowest rate of cognitive decline.
However, those who consumed tomatoes, apples, tea, wine and oranges also saw a benefit.
Study author Thomas Holland said: ‘It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of 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 maintaining their brain health.
‘At the end of the day, I would want people to know it is never too early or too late to start making healthy lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to diet.
‘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 affect our brain health, and researchers are still trying to pin down to what extent specific dietary components like flavonols affect our memory and thinking abilities.
‘Previous studies indicate that flavonols can help protect brain cells from damage, which has led to researchers investigating their potential role in slowing cognitive decline.
‘This new study also looks at how different types of flavonols could affect our brain health – something that has not been researched in detail before.
‘While the researchers tried to establish how flavonols play a role in slowing cognitive decline, it is always difficult to rule out other factors that could influence the results of this type of research.
‘As the participants were, on average, 81 years old at the start of this study, their lifestyle in the years leading up to the study is likely to have affected their risk of cognitive decline.
‘What we can say for now is that there is a wealth of evidence which points towards eating a balanced diet as a way to reduce risk of cognitive decline.
‘A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, along with plenty of exercise and not smoking, contributes to good heart health, which in turn helps to protect our brain from diseases that lead to cognitive impairment or dementia.
‘If we manage our diet and physical activity throughout our lives, that is a crucial step towards better brain health in later life.’
The findings were published in the journal Neurology.
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