- A new study suggests that flavonoid-rich foods like tea, apples, and berries may protect people from developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
- The study also noted the importance of diet on brain health, especially for people nearing their 50s.
- Flavonoids are believed to protect the brain through its anti-inflammatory properties.
Regularly drinking tea, or snacking on apples and berries, may play a role in cognitive decline and memory problems, says a new study.
The findings suggest that people who consume foods that are packed with flavonoids — plant chemicals found in almost all fruits and vegetables — have lower risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
“It’s more evidence of how important diet can be for brain health,” senior study author Paul Jacques, and a nutritional epidemiologist at Tufts University in Massachusetts, told TODAY.
He added that if people in their 50s start eating a healthier diet that includes sources of flavonoids like berries, tea, and apples, they can be protected from developing brain disorders.
While it remains unclear how flavonoids seem to protect the brain, one theory states that it may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties. One trait of Alzheimer’s is brain inflammation.
Three types of flavonoids appeared to be particularly beneficial. These are found in berries, green tea, apples, pear, onions, and red wine.
The 20 year-long study followed the health and eating habits of 2,801 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts.
To assess the flavonoid content of the foods they regularly eat, the participants, all of whom were more than 50 years of age, were asked to list down all the foods they ate. They were also grouped into two: one for high flavonoid intake and the other for low intake.
High flavonoid intake, as per the paper, means consuming about 7.5 cups of blueberries or strawberries, eight apples and pears, and 19 cups of tea a month. Low flavonoid intake on the other hand is equal to no intake of berries and tea and having one and a half apples only in a month.
After about 20 years, researchers found that people who had the least protection from dementia risks were those who had a low intake of the three flavonoid classes as compared to the highest intake.
Findings also include:
1. Low intake of flavonols (found in apples, pears, and tea) was linked to twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).
2. Low intake of anthocyanins (found in blueberries, strawberries, and red wine) was associated with a four-fold risk of developing ADRD.
3. Low intake of flavonoid polymers in apples, pears and tea was related to a two-fold risk of developing ADRD.
Jacques also noted that eating the actual foods is better than taking flavonoid supplements. Drinking red wine may also be beneficial but Jacques recommends teas or berries to get higher flavonoid benefits.
“The flavonoids are an important component but the message is really about eating a healthy diet — one that has a higher plant-based component… a healthy diet really does have dramatic effects on people’s health.”
In addition, Jacques also advised people who are approaching 50 or beyond to start adopting a healthier diet since the risk of dementia rises by the age of 70.
The findings were published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.