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‘Simple’ Dietary Shift Could Save Your Aging Brain

You may have more control than you think over your brain health as you age, specifically when it comes to how your memory functions, if results from a new study are any indication. Research published earlier this month in the journal Neurology has found that individuals who consume more flavonols—a type of plant-based flavonoid compound rich in antioxidants and found in fruits, vegetables, and other edibles—may stave off cognitive decline longer than those who don’t get as many of the phytochemicals in their diet, reports CNN. Scientists surveyed nearly 1,000 older participants between the ages of 60 and 100, with an average age of 81, each year for seven years on how often they chowed down on certain foods, per a release.

The yearly review also asked the study participants to complete cognitive and memory tasks such as recalling lists of words and placing numbers they’d been shown in the proper order. The subjects were divided into five groups based on the amount of flavonols in their diet, with the lowest group consuming about 5mg a day and the highest group taking in about 15mg daily, which is equivalent to about 1 cup of dark leafy greens. Researchers discovered that those who ingested the most flavonols saw their cognitive scores decline at a rate that was 0.4 units per decade slower than scores of people in the group that ingested the least amount of flavonols. The scientists also parsed results based on the ingestion of the four main types of flavonols: quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin, found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, sauces, tea, and wine.

The greatest difference was found with individuals who ate larger quantities of food with kaempferol, found in abundance in onions, kale, beans, spinach, broccoli, and tea. “It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline,” study author Thomas Holland, of Rush University Medical Center, says in a statement. Holland notes that one theory behind the results points to the flavonols’ antioxidant properties and their ability to reduce inflammation. More research is needed to see if the effects are long-lasting, and whether the flavonols alone are to be credited for the memory retention. Still, Holland notes, in the interim, “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.” (Read more discoveries stories.)


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