Not getting enough of it in your diet could lead to memory loss, according to one study

  • New research shows that a diet rich in flavanols can help older adults avoid age-related memory loss.
  • Flavanols are a type of flavonoid and are important for reducing inflammation.
  • Nutrition experts explain the findings.

There are many things we can do to keep our brains sharp as we age. From play brain games TO get enough sleep, research shows that there are a variety of lifestyle changes that affect brain health. Now, a new study finds that a diet rich in flavanols may reduce the risk of age-related memory loss.

Education have previously shown that up to 40 percent of adults aged 65 and older will experience some level of age-related memory loss. Fortunately, new research shows that some dietary choices that stimulate the brain may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you age.

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked specifically at how flavanol (a type of flavonoid which can help reduce inflammation) intake affected age-related memory decline in older adults. Or rather, researchers have examined how a diet low in flavanols might promote age-related memory loss.

More than 3,500 healthy older adults, who were 71 years old on average, were randomly assigned to receive a daily flavanol supplement or placebo pill for three years. The active supplement contained 500 mg of flavanols, including 80 mg of epicatechins, an amount adults are advised to get from food. All participants also completed a survey at the start of the study that assessed the quality of their diets, including foods known to be high in flavanols.

Participants then performed a series of tasks to assess short-term memory. These tests were repeated after the first, second and third year. More than a third of the participants provided urine samples which allowed the researchers to more accurately determine whether flavanol levels matched performance on cognitive tests. The urine test also verified that the participants were sticking to their assigned regimen.

Memory scores improved only slightly for the entire group taking the daily flavanol supplement, most of whom were already eating a healthy flavanol-rich diet. However, participants who ate a poorer diet and had lower levels of flavanols to begin with saw their memory scores increase after taking flavanol supplements by an average of 10.5% compared to the placebo group and 16% compared to the placebo group. to their memory at the start of the study.

The improvement among study participants on low-flavanol diets was substantial and raises the possibility of using flavanol-rich diets or supplements to improve cognitive function in older adults, Adam M. Brickman, Ph.D., professor of neuropsychology from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and co-lead of the study, said in a Press release.

What exactly are flavanols?

Flavanols are a type of flavonoid and are important for reducing inflammation, free radicals and fighting the growth of cancer cells, he says Melissa Prest, DCN, RDNNational Media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. Flavanols may provide protection against age-related memory loss by reducing inflammation and blocking plaque buildup in the brain.

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of flavanols, says Perst. Flavanol-rich foods include, but are not limited to, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, tea and wine, says Keri Gans, MS, RD, registered dietitian and author of The diet of small changes.

Train your brain with riddles, read or learn something new, suggests Perst. Make sure you get enough rest because poor sleep has been linked to memory loss, stay organized, limit multitasking, focus on treating any chronic health conditions, and work on moving your body daily. Gans adds that limiting alcohol intake and staying social can help mitigate age-related memory loss.

The bottom line

The biggest finding from this study is that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on memory retention and delay age-related memory loss, Perst says. This is important because there is a potential link between flavanol deficiency and memory loss, she adds. If you want to preserve your memory, boost your brain health by resting, exercise your mind and bodyand adding fruits and vegetables to every meal and snack.

Gans adds that to stay fit, you should eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as well only if you are on a nutrient-poor diet you should consider supplementation.

Food supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicinal products and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure any disease. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by their doctor.

Headshot of Madeleine Haase

Magdalene, Preventions assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and her own research at the university. She holds degrees in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience from the University of Michigan and helps strategize for success across the globe. Preventions social media platforms.

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