DEC 27, 2017 7:15 AM PST

Could Leafy Greens Slow Down Memory Loss?

Just like achy joints, thinning hair and a few wrinkles, it's almost a given that as we age, some problems with memory can develop. Age-related memory issues are not uncommon, but new research from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggests that older adults who consume at least one serving of leafy greens in their daily diet might have fewer issues with memory loss. The findings were published in the journal Neurology, but the American Academy of Neurology.

Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush and the lead author on the work stated, "Adding a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to help promote brain health. There continue to be sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number. Effective strategies to prevent dementia are critically needed."

The study made use of volunteers that were already participating in an ongoing research study called the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The project began in 1997, with senior citizens in the Chicago area providing daily diet information and undergoing cognitive testing. There were 960 study volunteers in the research. The average age of the volunteers was 81. At the beginning of the study, none of them had been diagnosed with dementia or any other neurological disorders. They were tested yearly and followed up for an average of 5 years, and some remained in the study for ten years.

In the food surveys completed by the volunteers, information on the specific amount of greens consumed was analyzed. They included kale, collard greens, spinach, and lettuce. The participants were grouped into five sections based on how often they ate these vegetables. The group that ate the most averaged about 1.3 servings per day and those eating the least amounts reported an average of 0.1 servings each day. The memory testing and other cognitive assessments in each group were compared.

As in any aging population, there was an expected amount of cognitive decline over the years. The average rate was recorded at 0.08 standard units per year. What is significant about the study, however, is that the group who consumed the most amount of the leafy green veggies had a slower rate of cognitive decline, by a rate of 0.05 standard units. What this means, regarding mental age, is that eating more kale, spinach and collard greens was correlated with being mentally younger, by 11 years.

Morris was quick to point out some of the limitations of the study. More participants of color would be needed in future research as well as looking at adults at younger ages. The study did not offer concrete proof that eating certain foods can stave off mental decline, but there was an association. Morris summarized the investigation, saying, "The study results do not prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but it does show an association. The study cannot rule out other possible reasons for the link." The video included here has additional information, take a look.

Sources: Rush Medical Center, Journal Neurology, Los Angeles Times 

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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