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Dementia diet: ‘One serving’ daily is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline

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According to research published in the journal Neurology, Doctor Martha Morris and colleagues from Rush University, Chicago, one daily serving of a certain food group is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline. The results were based on an analysis of 960 participants who took part in the memory and ageing project. Participants were between the ages of 59 to 99, and they completed a food frequency questionnaire.

Two cognitive assessments were completed over an average of nearly five years.

The researchers found that the “consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline”.

People who had a daily serving of leafy green vegetables experienced the equivalent of “being 11 years younger in age” compared to those who ate green leafy vegetables the least.

Vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol are nutrients and “bioactives” found in leafy green vegetables.

The researchers concluded: “[The] consumption of approximately one serving per day of green leafy vegetables… may help to slow cognitive decline with ageing.”

Leafy green vegetables

The EatFresh organisation listed leafy greens to include:

  • Collards
  • Mustard Greens
  • Kale, Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Bok Choy
  • Arugula
  • Beet Greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Ong choy spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Watercress.

“Leafy greens is a broad term for plant leaves eaten as a vegetable,” EatFresh clarified.

Leafy greens “contain many nutrients”, such as B vitamins to help cells grow and stay healthy.

Other nutrients include vitamins C, E, and K, helping the immune system and aiding the body’s ability to heal itself.

Leafy green vegetables also contain magnesium, which helps with energy production.

Moreover, the edible plants also contain potassium, which helps to build muscle to keep the heart muscle healthy.

Furthermore, this food group contains iron – essential for red blood cells – as well as calcium and vitamin D.

There are also “a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin”.

These “protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems”.

Dark leafy greens also contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to better brain health.

The Alzheimer’s Society stated: “Omega-3 is important for our brain throughout life.”

This includes “from early cognitive development in foetuses to learning and memory in adults”.

The charity continued: “Brain cells with high levels of omega-3 in their membranes are thought to be better at communicating with other cells.”

However, eating fish “as part of a balanced diet” could reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline more so than omega-3 itself, based on current evidence.

Leafy green plants are only one portion of a healthy, well balanced diet which could include: fruits, vegetables, starch foods, pulses, and unsaturated oils.

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