A new study has confirmed that higher long-term dietary intakes of flavonoid-rich foods lowers the risk of age-related brain decline.
And the scientists say it’s not too late to make a difference later in life – even from the age 50.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 2,800 people (mean baseline age – 59.1 years) and examined the long-term relationship between eating flavonoid-rich foods and risks of age-related conditions that typically affect brain health.
They found that low intake was linked to higher risk of age-related decline, compared to the highest intake.
Flavonoids are natural substances found in berries, fruits, vegetables and plant-based beverages like tea and wine. They are associated with various health benefits, through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help delay age-related decline.
Berries have the most potent brain health benefits and anthocyanin – one of the key bioactives in berry fruit – has been shown to play a major role in preventing age-related decline in the study.
They found that low intake of anthocyanins was associated with a four-fold risk of developing age-related conditions.
Senior author Dr. Paul Jacques, a nutritional epidemiologist at Tufts University, who published the paper, said: “Our study gives us a picture of how diet over time might be related to a person’s cognitive decline, as we were able to look at flavonoid intake over many years prior to participants’ dementia diagnoses.
“With no effective drugs currently available for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, preventing disease through a healthy diet is an important consideration.”
“Green tea and berries are good sources of flavonoids,” said first author Dr Esra Shishtar. “When we look at the study results, we see that the people who may benefit the most from consuming more flavonoids are people at the lowest levels of intake, and it doesn’t take much to improve levels.”
“A cup of tea a day or some berries two or three times a week would be adequate.
“50, the approximate age at which data was first analyzed for participants, is not too late to make positive dietary changes,” Dr. Jacques said.
“The risk of dementia really starts to increase over age 70, and the take home message is, when you are approaching 50 or just beyond, you should start thinking about a healthier diet if you haven’t already.”