In a new study, researchers found that older people who ate few flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples, and tea, were 2-4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared with people whose intake was higher.
The research was led by scientists at Tufts University.
The study of 2,800 people aged 50 and older examined the long-term relationship between eating foods containing flavonoids and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
While many studies have looked at associations between nutrition and dementias over short periods of time, the study looked at the effects over 20 years.
Flavonoids are natural substances found in plants, including fruits and vegetables such as pears, apples, berries, onions, and plant-based beverages like tea and wine.
Flavonoids are associated with various health benefits, including reduced inflammation. Dark chocolate is another source of flavonoids.
The research team determined that a low intake of three flavonoid types was linked to a higher risk of dementia when compared to the highest intake. Specifically:
Low intake of flavonols (apples, pears, and tea) was linked to twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementia.
Low intake of anthocyanins (blueberries, strawberries, and red wine) was associated with a four-fold risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementia.
Low intake of flavonoid polymers (apples, pears, and tea) was associated with twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementia.
The study shows a picture of how diet over time might be related to a person’s cognitive decline.
The team says tea, specifically green tea, and berries are good sources of flavonoids.
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.
The team also says 50 is not too late to make positive dietary changes.
The risk of dementia really starts to increase over age 70, and hen people are approaching 50 or just beyond, they should start thinking about a healthier diet if they haven’t already.
One author of the study is Paul Jacques, a nutritional epidemiologist at the USDA HNRCA.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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