Eating more foods containing antioxidant flavonols could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life, according to a study published in Neurology.
Flavonols, found in nearly all fruit and vegetables as well as tea, are a type of flavonoid – chemical compounds found in plant pigments that have known health benefits.
In this study, researchers followed the health of 921 people with an average age of 81 who did not initially have Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia.
Each year, the participants filled out a questionnaire to say how often they ate certain foods, as well as other factors such as their education level, amount of physical activity, and how often they engaged in cognitive activities such as reading and playing games. The participants were followed for an average of six years, and over the course of the study, 220 people developed Alzheimer’s.
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The researchers found that those who had the most flavonols in their diet were 48 per cent less likely, after adjusting for other factors, to develop Alzheimer’s than those who had the least amount.
Some of the top sources of flavonols included pears, olive oil, kale, beans, tea, spinach, broccoli, wine, tomatoes and apples.
“More research is needed to confirm these results, but these are promising findings,” said study author Dr Thomas Holland at Rush University in Chicago, US. “Eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea could be a fairly inexpensive and easy way for people to help stave off Alzheimer’s dementia.
“With the elderly population increasing worldwide, any decrease in the number of people with this devastating disease, or even delaying it for a few years, could have an enormous benefit on public health.”
What is dementia?
Some 850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, and that’s expected to rise to two million by 2050. Most of us probably know, or have known, someone with dementia.
But we may not understand the difference between dementia and, say, Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia describes the symptoms that someone experiences as a result of a brain disease.
Such symptoms can include memory loss, mood and behavioural changes, and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language.
More than 100 diseases can cause dementia, each with slightly different symptoms. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s.