Scientists discover foods that can help prevent memory loss

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Eating leafy greens, dark orange and red vegetables and berry fruits, and drinking orange juice may be associated with a lower risk of memory loss over time in men, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States analysed data from a study that had followed 27,842 men for 26 years.

The men had all filled in detailed surveys about their food and drink intake at the start of the study in 1986 – when they were aged 51 years, on average – and then every four years until 2002.

The follow-up lasted until 2012, by which time their average age was in the 70s.

Participants also took subjective tests of their thinking and memory skills at least four years before the end of the study, when they were an average age of 73. The test is designed to detect changes that people can notice in how well they are remembering things before those changes would be detected by objective cognitive tests.

Changes in memory reported by the participants would be considered precursors to mild cognitive impairment. The six questions included “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items, such as a shopping list?” and “Do you have more trouble than usual following a group conversation or a plot in a TV program due to your memory?”

A total of 55 per cent of the participants had good thinking and memory skills, 38 per cent had moderate skills, and 7 per cent had poor thinking and memory skills.

The participants were divided into five groups based on their fruit and vegetable consumption. For vegetables, the highest group ate about six servings per day, compared to about two servings for the lowest group. For fruits, the top group ate about three servings per day, compared to half a serving for the bottom group.

The men who consumed the most vegetables were 34 per cent less likely to develop poor thinking skills than the men who consumed the least amount of vegetables.

A total of 6.6 per cent of men in the top group developed poor cognitive function, compared to 7.9 per cent of men in the bottom group.

The men who drank orange juice every day were 47 per cent less likely to develop poor thinking skills than the men who drank less than one serving per month. A total of 6.9 per cent of men who drank orange juice every day developed poor cognitive function, compared to 8.4 per cent of men who drank orange juice less than once a month.

The men who ate the most fruit each day were less likely to develop poor thinking skills, but that association was weakened after researchers adjusted for other dietary factors that could affect the results, such as consumption of vegetables, fruit juice, refined grains, legumes and dairy products.

The researchers also found that people who ate larger amounts of fruits and vegetables 20 years earlier were less likely to develop thinking and memory problems, whether or not they kept eating larger amounts of fruits and vegetables about six years before the memory test.

Read the full study.

Do you think you eat enough fruit and vegetables in your diet? Does this study make you want to start healthier eating habits?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 21
  1. 0

    I live on fruit and vegetables. One thing Ive noticed when talking about issues like dementias and other illnesses, no one talks about the fact that the quality of foods and the poisons they are grown in is increasing and has done for the last 100 years. What effect is that having on us over time and how does this contribute to these conditions.

    • 0

      sorry that should read the quality of fruit and veggies has decreased and there has neen an increase in poisions etc.

    • 0

      You are correct Ted, the pesticides and fertilizers are contributing to diseases, and the poor kids are getting the brunt of it. It is important to keep your liver functioning so it can do it’s job properly to rid us off all these toxins, live naturally as possible, and minimize fats and proteins. Growing your own fruit and veg is the best way to go, I picked some strawberries today and they were just amazing. Lots of leafy greens growing too.

  2. 0

    I don’t think fruits/vegies are grown in poisons, more like sprayed with insecticides. Always wash bought plant foods, I would hazard a guess that eating quality greens/fruits will supply enough antioxidants to keep you from illness. Much better than eating meats loaded with hormones/antibiotics etc. A recent Harvard study classed processed meat as a class 1 carcinogenic (as are cigarettes) but where’s that skull and crossbones label on your hotdog?

    • 0

      Not just processed meats, most animals are fed a lot of things to keep them healthy, and they accumulate toxins in their livers too. No animal products are best, or at least minimize them. Too much fat and protein clog up the liver.

  3. 0

    The World Health Org has also listed class 1 carcinogen foods, you won’t like this…bacon.
    Also the Anti cancer council of Oz. So again, where’s the warning label like on cigarettes?

  4. 0

    Ah – the vegetarians – always trying to justify their diet.
    Anemia will affect memory loss – you need iron – from red meat.
    Eat a balanced diet free from preservatives and over processing.
    Eating red oranges? mmm – who has invested in the orange market.

    • 0

      I don’t need to justify my diet Rosret, I think it is more meat eaters that try and justify continuing to believe that meat is healthy. Too much iron is more of a problem than less and you do not need meat for it, that is a myth that has been busted. I have never tested for low iron or B12 for that matter, in over 30 years of not eating meat.

  5. 0

    I notice that having fruit and veg in the diet 20 years before hand, also affects the results.

    So growing up with a healthy diet, can also affect how long you last in old age.

    So I wonder if Eskimo’s have a bad memory, because I don’t see where they would get a lot of fruit and vegetables, unless they eat seaweed. There are just some cultures in the world I can’t see sitting down to a glass of orange juice every morning.

    • 0

      I think when the eskimos brought a new child into the world the grandmother headed out onto the ice for the polar bears to eat. So I don’t think they reached a grand old age.

      If we promote orange juice we will introduce more people drinking our bottled juices that add to obesity and tooth decay issues.

      I think it’s a rather skewed scientific research project – you are quite right. Lots of people don’t or can’t want to consume oranges on a regular basis.

    • 0

      Citrus fruits in excess are not good if you have arthritis.

    • 0

      Inuits are not very healthy and have a lot of heart disease. Living in extreme climates is different to temperate climates too.

      Jennie, it is not the citrus fruits, it is the animal products and wheat that can effect arthritis. Also over burden of fats and protein in the liver.

    • 0

      Rosret, drinking the juice is not the answer, you need to eat the orange, you consume far less and get all the fibre. Fruit does not contribute to obesity either, that is a myth.

  6. 0

    Ah, meat eaters, always trying to justify their diet. 🙂 Iron from meat is a heme iron, only from meat, sure it’s good if you are iron deficient but if you eat even a hand full of nuts/vegies (non heme iron) you will never get iron deficiency…and it’s not carcinogenic.

  7. 0

    I do but I can’t remember how much.

  8. 0

    charlie, I think you’ll find the early Inuit or Eskimos had a very short lifespan and being a freezing temp their were less active harmfull bacteria. Read an interesting article about this but can’t find the link. Now that the Eskimo is being more and more exposed to Western diets they are having more diabetes and obesity, which is also happening in Okinawa, once the oldest living population.

  9. 0

    Rosret, where does iron come from…a cow eating grass perhaps.

  10. 0

    If you read it properly it doesn’t mention red oranges or oranges at all, it says dark orange and red vegetables as in pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato etc.

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