What can we do to protect our brain health as we age?

New evidence finds diets rich in flavonoids help stave off Alzheimer disease and related dementias in later life.

Scientists have been trying to unpick the components in food that have health benefits as we age. For example, the antioxidant effects of flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds found in many common foods such as apples, berries, and tea, may protect our brain health as we get older.

Researchers from Tufts University, Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging in Medford, Maine, investigated whether diets containing foods rich in commonly found flavonoids linked to Alzheimer disease and related dementias.

The scientists analysed data from the Framington Heart Study members, which explores risk factors for heart disease. Every four years for twenty years, over 2800 people aged between 50 and 70 completed questionnaires and examinations detailing their general health and diet.

The results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people who regularly ate foods low in flavonoids were more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer disease and related dementias during the 20 years.

People consuming diets low in foods containing the flavonoid anthocyanin, found in blueberries, strawberries and red wine, had a 4-fold increased risk of Alzheimer-related dementias.

Low intakes of flavanols and flavonoid polymers, commonly found in apples, pears and tea, doubled the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Low intakes of flavonoids in the study were equivalent to eating no berries, just over one apple and no tea per month. High intakes were equal to 7.5 cups of berries, eight apples or pears and 19 cups of tea per month.

Common Flavonoids and the foods in which they are found:

Flavanone is found in citrus and juices.

Anthocyanin is found in berries and red wine.

Flavone is found in parsley and celery.

 Flavon-3-ol is found in tea and dark chocolate.

Flavonol is found in onions and apples.

Isoflavone is found in soy products.

Reference

Shishtar.E., Rogers. G.T., Blumberg. J.B., Au.R., Jacques. P.F. (2020). Long-term dietary flavonoid intake and risk of Alzheimer Disease and related dementias in the Framington off-spring cohort, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1-11. On-Line: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa079

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