NOV 29, 2022 1:00 PM PST

Fruits and Vegetables High in Flavonols May Slow Memory Decline

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Antioxidants are well known for the numerous health benefits. Produced by both the body and found in a range of foods, antioxidants play a crucial role in helping reduce oxidative stress in the body. Some of these foods include tea and certain fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries. When the body experiences too much oxidative stress, it can cause damage to cells and even DNA. This damage is a key part of the aging process, and it has even been linked to the development of cancer.

A new study conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago now links the consumption of a specific antioxidant (flavonols, which are found in several fruits and vegetables, including cocoa), to brain health, highlighting their protective benefits against cognitive decline. The study is published in a recent edition of Neurology.   

The study followed 961 people. While ages ranged, the average was about 80 years of age. No participant had dementia. During the study, participants completed the following:

  • Questionnaires asking about the kinds of foods participants ate, and how much they ate of certain types of foods.
  • Cognitive and memory tests
  • Health and personal histories, including information about education, physical activity, and how much time they spent doing certain cognitive activities.

Overall, participants were followed, on average, for about seven years.

During data analysis, researchers divided participants into different groups based on reported amounts of flavonols participants ate, for a total of five different groups. On average, participants in the study consumed about 10 mg of flavonol per day (compared to the average in the U.S. of at least 16 mg per day). Participants in the group with the highest consumption averaged about 15 mg per day.

To measure cognitive decline, researchers used a global score using different cognitive tests to measure overall cognitive decline. Scores were anywhere between 0.5 (no cognitive issues) to -0.5 (full Alzheimer’s disease). They also found that certain types of foods contributed to a slower cognitive decline, including kale, tomatoes, apples, oranges, olive oil, and tea, among many others.

Researchers found that cognitive rates declined the slowest (0.4 each decade) in the group that consumed the most flavonols in their diet. The team attributes this protect benefit to the protection against inflammation that antioxidants offer.

Sources: Science Daily; Neurology; Cancer Cell

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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