As if you needed any more encouragement to drink tea, two types of antioxidants found in green tea and many other foods can slow cognitive decline in older adults, new research has confirmed.
Most of us fear losing our cognitive abilities as we age. But keeping your brain healthy may be as simple as upping your vegetable and tea intake.
Research published in the journal Neurology maintains that a higher intake of flavonols is associated with reduced rates of cognitive impairment in older people.
Flavonols are a class of flavonoid compound, which is a type of antioxidant. Flavonols are found in a wide variety of foods, including dark leafy greens, green tea, red wine, broccoli, beans, tomatoes, leeks and more.
In the study, researchers examined the data of 961 adults living in retirement communities, who had been a part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. This longitudinal study looked at potential identifiers of future dementia risk and followed participants for an average of 6.5 years.
The participants were aged between 58 and 100 and had not been diagnosed with dementia at the time of the study.
The researchers assessed the participants annually to evaluate cognitive function and risk factors associated with cognitive decline. Participants’ diets were assessed using a self-reported, but validated, questionnaire.
The researchers examined the association between dietary flavonol intake and cognitive function after adjusting for factors including age, sex, educational attainment, smoking, physical activity levels, and engagement in cognitively stimulating activities.
The analysis showed a strong correlation between a higher flavonol intake and dramatically slower cognitive decline.
Dr Thomas Holland, author of the study, told Medical News Today the results reinforced what was already known about the role diet played in the onset of dementia.
“In our study population, those who consumed the highest level of flavonols (an average of seven servings of dark leafy greens per week) versus the lowest had a 32 per cent decrease in their rate of cognitive decline,” he said.
“A healthy diet that contains various fruits and vegetables is critical for continued health, especially brain health. It is generally known that the vitamins and minerals found in these food items are important.
“But now we are understanding that it’s the entire composition of the food, inclusive of bioactives like flavonols, that render these foods beneficial.”
And it appears to be two specific types of flavonol – known as kaempferol and quercetin – doing the heavy lifting.
A bit of a mouthful, kaempferol is primarily found in kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli; quercetin is mostly found in red onions and capers, as well as many seeds and grains.
While Dr Holland says more study is required into the exact mechanism behind flavonols’ ability to protect the brain, it initially appears they protect neurons in the brain by preventing the build-up of amyloid proteins, a known precursor to dementia.
Do you eat these high-flavonol foods? Would you consider adding them to your diet? Let us know in the comments section below.