Researchers find an intriguing link between foods + drinks rich in flavonol and staving off dementia.
You know how everyone is always going on about how fruits and vegetables are good for you? Does it make you eat more fruits and vegetables? Would hearing that doing so might significantly reduce your risk for Alzheimer's dementia sweeten the pot? Because that's the conclusion of a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Specifically, the researchers looked at antioxidant flavonols, which are phytochemical compounds found in plant pigments that are known for their health benefits. The researchers found that, "people who eat or drink more foods with the antioxidant flavonol, which is found in nearly all fruits and vegetables as well as tea, may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's dementia years later.""More research is needed to confirm these results, but these are promising findings," says study author Thomas M. Holland, MD, of Rush University in Chicago. "Eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea could be a fairly inexpensive and easy way for people to help stave off Alzheimer's dementia. With the elderly population increasing worldwide, any decrease in the number of people with this devastating disease, or even delaying it for a few years, could have an enormous benefit on public health."
The study began with a group of 921 people from an ongoing community-based, prospective cohort called the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The average age was 81, and none of them had Alzheimer's dementia at the beginning of the research. Every year the participants filled out a survey with questions about the frequency with which they ate certain foods. Other relevant questions were also asked about things linked to lower rates of dementia, like about physical activities and mentally engaging activities such as reading and playing games.
Each year, the people were tested to check for Alzheimer's dementia. Over the course of six years, 220 of the participants had developed the condition.
The researchers determined how much flavonol was in each person's diet and divided the participants into five groups based on their intake. According to the Academy:
The study found that people in the highest group were 48 percent less likely to later develop Alzheimer's dementia than the people in the lowest group after adjusting for genetic predisposition and demographic and lifestyle factors. Of the 186 people in the highest group, 28 people, or 15 percent, developed Alzheimer's dementia, compared to 54 people, or 30 percent, of the 182 people in the lowest group.
They also took into consideration other risk factors – such as, diabetes, previous heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure – but the results remained the same.
For the study they looked at four different compounds in flavonols – these were the top food contributors for each category:
Foods containing isorhamnetin:
Foods containing kaempferol:
Foods containing lyricetin:
Participants who had a high intake of isorhamnetin were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Those with a high intake of kaempferol were 51 percent less likely to develop dementia. And those with high intake of myricetin were also 38 percent less likely to develop dementia. The fourth compound was quercetin, which they found was not linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer's dementia.
As Holland notes, the research shows an association between dietary flavonols and Alzheimer's risk, but does not prove a cause, we can only say that a link is suggested. But given those numbers, it seems like a prudent suggestion to follow. What's the worst that could happen? You eat more plants and drink more tea? Given all the other benefits of doing so, both for the body and the planet, it certainly couldn't hurt.
See more on the study at the American Academy of Neurology.