As people age, inflammation within their immune system increases, damaging cells.
In a new study from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, researchers found that people who consumed an anti-inflammatory diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, beans, and tea or coffee, had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life.
In the study, the team looked at 1,059 people in Greece with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.
Each person answered a food frequency questionnaire that is commonly used to determine the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet.
A possible dietary inflammatory score can range from -8.87 to 7.98, with higher scores indicating a more inflammatory diet, which includes fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, beans and tea or coffee.
Researchers divided the participants into three equal groups: those with the lowest dietary inflammatory scores, medium scores and highest scores.
Those in the group with the lowest scores of -1.76 and lower, indicating a more anti-inflammatory diet, ate an average per week of 20 servings of fruit, 19 of vegetables, four of beans or other legumes and 11 of coffee or tea per week.
Those in the group with the highest scores, 0.21 and above, indicating a more inflammatory diet, ate an average per week of nine servings of fruit, 10 of vegetables, two of legumes and nine of coffee or tea.
Researchers followed up with each person for an average of three years. They found that each one-point increase in dietary inflammatory score was associated with a 21% increase in dementia risk.
Compared to the lowest third of participants who consumed the least inflammatory diet, those in the top third were three times more likely to develop dementia.
The team says the results are getting scientists closer to characterizing and measuring the inflammatory potential of people’s diets.
That in turn could help inform more tailored and precise dietary recommendations and other strategies to maintain cognitive health.
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The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, Ph.D.
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