A serving of green vegetables a day helps slow brain aging

Research published in the journal Neurology showed that consuming these foods is associated with fewer amyloid plaques, which are often signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eating just one serving of leafy green vegetables a day may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the aging of the brain, according to a new study. The scans showed that older adults who ate at least six servings of vegetables had lower levels of Alzheimer’s-related plaques and brains that were four years younger than their peers.

Dementia is thought to be caused by amyloid proteins in the brain, which clump together and damage key neurons. Leafy green vegetables are rich in antioxidants that can help protect the brain from oxidative stress, related to the buildup of these amyloid plaques.

Study author Puja Agarwal, from RUSH University Chicago, said: “These results are exciting. Improving diet in just one aspect, such as eating more than six servings of leafy green vegetables a week or not eating fried foods, was associated with fewer amyloid plaques in the brain, similar to being about four years younger. ”.

The researchers looked at 581 people, mean age 84 at the time of dietary assessment, who agreed to donate their brains at death to advance dementia research.

Participants filled out annual questionnaires asking how much food they ate and died an average of seven years after the start of the study. Before dying, 39% had been diagnosed with dementia. When examined after death, 66% met criteria for Alzheimer’s disease.

During an autopsy, the researchers examined their brains to determine the number of amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Both are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, but they can also be found in older people with normal cognition.

The researchers reviewed the dietary questionnaires that had been collected and rated the quality of each person’s diet.

Scores were based on compliance with a version of the Mediterranean diet that prioritizes leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, and other vegetables.

The scientists found that people who ate a diet rich in vegetables had a one point higher score and the same amount of plaque in their brains as people 4.25 years younger.

The traditional Mediterranean diet, which is similar but emphasizes olive oil, nuts and fish, has been linked to a number of health benefits, including cardiovascular disease and increased longevity.

For the Mediterranean diet, there were 11 food categories. People received a score of zero to 55, with higher scores if they followed the diet in these categories: whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish and potatoes. Consumption of red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products resulted in a lower score.

In the case of the DASH-Mediterranean Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND), there were 15 categories. People received a score of zero to 15, with one point for each of 10 brain-healthy food groups: leafy greens, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry , olive oil and wine.

The researchers found that people who scored the highest on the Mediterranean diet had a similar mean amount of plaque and tangles in their brains as people 18 years younger than those who scored the lowest.