A salad a day could keep your brain 11 years younger
A study in older adults has linked improved memory and cognitive ability to regular consumption of leafy green vegetables.
However, eating one serving of vegetables a day can help preserve memory and cognitive skills, according to a study by researchers at Rush University in Chicago. leafy green vegetables a day can help preserve memory and cognitive skills, according to a study by researchers at Rush University in Chicago.
Folic acid, from the B group of vitamins, is found in large quantities in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard or lettuce.
In a statement released by the University, which has published the research in the prestigious scientific journal Neurology, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist, explains the results of the study and how it is possible that the introduction of such a simple dietary habit can have such implications for the brain:
“Adding a daily serving of leafy green vegetables to the diet can be a simple way to help promote brain health,” he says.
In the West there continues to be a sharp increase in the number of people with dementia due to the ageing population and longer life expectancy. For this reason, explains the doctor, “effective strategies are needed to prevent the dementia”.
In the research, 960 older adults completed food questionnaires and received annual cognitive assessments in a follow-up that lasted nearly 5 years.
The results were clear: of the people observed in the research, those who periodically consumed a serving of leafy greens had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who rarely or never ingested them.
In addition, older adults with this eating habit showed signs of being cognitively 11 years younger.
The higher the frequency, the better
Participants also completed the food frequency questionnaire, which assessed how often and how many half-cup servings they ate leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, chard, or lettuce.
Specifically, the study divided participants into five groups based on how often they ate leafy greens, and compared the cognitive assessments of those who ate the most (an average of about 1.3 servings per day) and those who ate the least (0.1 servings per day).
Overall, participants’ scores on tests of thinking and memory declined at a normal rate, corresponding to the normal age-associated degradation of abilities.
However, the rate of cognitive decline for those who ate the vegetables more often was slower than the rate for those who consumed fewer such vegetables. A difference in skill loss equivalent to being 11 years younger, according to Morris.
Despite the results, a cause-and-effect relationship between consumption of leafy greens and reduction of cognitive decline cannot yet be assured.
The study even took into account variables involved that affect brain health: alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, educational level and the amount of physical and cognitive activities.
Even so, the relationship established by the study may be nuanced. “The study results do not prove that eating green leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but it does show an association,” in the words of Dr. Morris. “The study cannot rule out other possible reasons for this relationship.”
Because the study focused on older adults, the results may not apply to younger adults. From now on the results should be confirmed by other researchers in different populations and through randomized trials toestablish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of leafy greens and the reduction in the incidence of cognitive impairment.