Want to avoid dementia? Add color to your plate

(image) By Cara Murez Journalist for Health Day

THURSDAY July 29, 2021 (HealthDay News)

Something as simple as a glass of orange juice in the morning or an apple for lunch could be one of the keys to protecting your brain health.

People who only ate half a serving per day of foods rich in a natural compound called flavonoids had a 20% lower risk of mental decline, according to a new study.

“We believe that this may have important implications for public health, because from what you see in the current study, it could be that simply by making simple changes to your diet, i.e. by adding these flavonoid-rich foods to your diet, you could potentially help prevent cognitive decline, ”said study co-author Dr Tian-Shin Yeh, researcher at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health .

Besides bananas, apples, pears, and sweet peppers, the list of foods rich in flavonoids includes celery, citrus fruits, cherries, and berries. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant, according to researchers.

In the absence of effective treatments for dementia, the impact of risk factors that people can control, such as changing their diet and exercising regularly, is gaining more and more attention. Cognitive or mental decline is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors, Yeh said.

Researchers looked at the diets and perception of subjective cognitive decline in approximately 77,000 American adults enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Women were on average 48 years old and men on average 51 years old at the start.

Participants completed several questionnaires over 20 years of follow-up that asked them how often they ate certain foods. The researchers calculated their intake of flavonoids.

Those who ate the most flavonoids averaged 600 milligrams (mg) per day. Those who ate the least had an average of 150 mg. To put this in context, an apple contains around 113 mg of flavonoids, while there are around 180 mg in about two-thirds of a cup of strawberries.

Flavones, a particular flavonoid found in certain spices and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, had the strongest protective qualities, the researchers said. They were associated with a 38% reduction in the risk of cognitive decline.

Another type of flavonoid, called anthocyanins, was associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of cognitive decline. It is found in darker fruits like cherries, blueberries and blackberries.

On two separate occasions during the study, participants also assessed their own cognitive abilities, answering questions such as “Do you have more difficulty remembering recent events than usual?” “” And “Do you have a harder time remembering a short list of items than usual?

The researchers said these types of questions can detect memory problems early on, the moment a person notices them and before they can be detected in a drug test.

Exactly why these foods could make a difference in brain health remains a matter of open research, said Dr. Darren Gitelman, neurologist and senior medical director of the Advocate Memory Center in Chicago. Gitelman did not participate in the study.

Some theories suggest that antioxidant foods reduce amyloid deposits, which is a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease, or neuroinflammation.

“There are many hypothetical effects on the neural environment that could be beneficial with these foods,” Gitelman said. “I will say that it is also possible, and it is not mentioned, that if you eat these foods, you can generally have a healthier approach to eating and your physical being than if you do not eat these foods. . “

Yeh said a colorful flavonoid-rich diet is a good bet for promoting long-term brain health – and it’s never too late to start. Even the study participants who started eating more flavonoids later saw benefits.

A healthy lifestyle is important for overall health and the health of the brain, Yeh said. “And the combination of diet and exercise appears to provide a more complete benefit than either alone,” she noted.

The study was adjusted for many dietary and non-dietary factors, including socio-economic factors, physical activity, and other nutrients. The flavonoids results were independent of these other factors, but future studies are still needed to confirm the results, Yeh said.

The results appear in the July 28 online issue of Neurology. The limitations of the study include that people remembered their own diets. In addition, the study does not establish a direct cause and effect relationship, but simply an association between diet and a lower risk of dementia.

Gitelman added: “This study was important in showing the potential benefits of these types of foods on our brain health, but it needs to be extended to other populations before knowing its true impact.”



Stages of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease and aging of the brain
See the slideshow

More information

Are you confused more often? The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on subjective cognitive decline.

SOURCES: Tian-Shin Yeh, MD, PhD, associate researcher, Department of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Darren Gitelman, MD, senior medical director, Advocate Memory Center and director of cognitive impairment, Advocate Aurora Health System, Chicago; Neurology, July 28, 2021

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