Memory can falter as we age. We may suddenly forget what we walked into a room for or have trouble recalling names and nouns. For the most part, this is a normal part of the aging process.
What you eat can help curb this trend, however. The key to slowing the rate of memory loss, a new study suggests, is to make sure your diet includes plenty of foods that contain flavonols.
Flavonols are a type of flavonoid, a group of phytochemicals found in many plant foods. They help fight inflammation in the body, improve vascular health, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, all of which contribute to keeping you mentally sharp.
Nearly 1,000 seniors participated in the study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center. They were followed for about seven years. The participants’ ages ranged from 60 to 100, and none had been diagnosed with dementia. Each person completed a questionnaire every year on their dietary intake. They were also subjected to yearly cognitive and memory tests. Information about their educational level and physical and mental activities was also collected.
Kale, beans, tea, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and tomato sauce, apples, wine, oranges, pears and olive oil were among the top foods that contributed to participants’ flavonol intake.
Based on the amount of flavonols they reported in their diets, participants were divided into five equal groups. As a whole, the people in the study ate about 10 mg of flavonols per day, well below the average intake of U.S. adults which is 16 to 20 mg per day and far below the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. One cup of dark, leafy greens amounts to about 15 mg of flavonols.
The top group of participants consumed about 15 mg of flavonols per day while the lowest group ate only about 5 mg per day.
People whose diets contained the most flavonols showed a slower rate of memory decline than people who had the lowest intake. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flavonols are presumed to be responsible for this finding.
Kale, beans, tea, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and tomato sauce, apples, wine, oranges, pears and olive oil were the top foods that contributed to flavonol intake in the study.
There was a clear association between higher intake of flavonols and reduced cognitive decline seen in the study, though it was not able to prove flavonols cause a slower rate of cognitive decline. One other limitation of the study was that it relied on a self-reported dietary questionnaire — people often don’t accurately remember everything they eat.
The key to slowing the rate of memory loss, a new study suggests, is to make sure your diet includes plenty of foods that contain flavonols.
“It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline,” said Thomas M. Holland, one of the authors, in a statement. “Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in maintaining their brain health..”
If you are looking for other ways to up your flavonol intake, consider berries, onions, red cabbage, parsley, dark chocolate, and citrus fruits.
The study is published in Neurology.