If you’re looking for ways to keep your brain healthy as you grow older, making sure you are getting enough of certain antioxidants could be just what you need. People with higher blood levels of these antioxidants have less risk of developing dementia, a new study has found.
Dementia affects a person’s memory, cognition and social abilities to the point that it can hinder their daily life and they may no longer be able to live independently. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of several related disorders that fall under the umbrella of dementia.
Nearly 7,300 people took part in a study carried out by the National Institute on Aging and researchers from several universities. The study began with a physical exam, an interview and blood work to record antioxidant levels. The participants were then divided into three groups according to the levels of three antioxidants in their blood — lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin — and then followed for an average of 16 years to see who developed dementia.
Antioxidants found in fruits like persimmons, oranges, papaya and tangerines appeared to offer the best protection.
Having high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and also peas, lowered the risk of dementia by seven percent.
The study did have its limitations. “It’s important to note that the effect of these antioxidants on the risk of dementia was reduced somewhat when we took into account other factors such as education, income and physical activity,” May A. Beydoun of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging explained, in a statement; “So it’s possible that those factors may help explain the relationship between antioxidant levels and dementia.” In addition, the study only showed antioxidant levels at one point in time and may not be reflective of a person’s levels over a lifetime.
“Extending people’s cognitive functioning is an important public health challenge,” Beydoun added. As baby boomers age, the number of people with some form of dementia will increase. Health care costs for someone with dementia are much higher during the last five years of life compared to other common conditions such as cancer or heart disease. Dementia also takes a toll on caregivers, often compounding the problems families face.
Dementia can affect a person’s memory, cognition and social abilities to the point where they may no longer be able to live independently.
The study is published in Neurology.