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Antioxidant-Rich Foods—Like Kale, Tea, Broccoli—Could Slow Rate Of Memory Decline, Study Suggests

People who eat or drink foods with antioxidant flavonols could experience a slower rate of memory decline, according to a study published in the medical journal Neurology Tuesday, as an estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 or older are living with Alzheimer’s.

KEY FACTS

The study, conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, involved 961 people without dementia with an average age of 81.

Participants filled out a questionnaire on how often they ate specific foods each year for an average of seven years in addition to completing cognitive and memory tests.

Though the average intake of antioxidant flavonols—a compound found in plant pigments—for the average American is about 16 mg to 20 mg per day, the study population’s average was about 10 mg.

After adjusting for other factors such as age, sex and smoking, researchers found the average cognitive score of people with the highest intake of flavonols declined slower than the average score from the group with the lowest intake.

The flavonol kaempferol was found to be the most effective, accounting for foods like kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli.

Thomas Holland, a coauthor of the study, suggests while the study “shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline,” it does not outright prove the connection between consuming antioxidant flavonols and slowing cognitive decline.

BIG NUMBER

$321 billion. That’s how much the Alzheimer’s Association expects Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the U.S. by the end of 2022. By 2050, it expects these costs to raise upward of $1 trillion.

KEY BACKGROUND

Scientists have continued to research and debate over the cause of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and whether specific factors could affect cognitive decline. Recently, the clinical trial for a new drug suggested a possible treatment for slowing cognitive skills, though its results were not conclusive. The National Institute on Aging suggests that increased physical activity, maintaining healthy blood pressure and practicing cognitive-based skills, like memory, reasoning or processing speed, can lead to slowed cognitive decline rates.

TANGENT

Alzheimer’s research (specifically detection) is a popular focus of billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Ronald Lauder, who have spent millions in “venture philanthropy,” where financial returns made from their investment into groups like Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation are invested back into the foundation, and not back to the donors.

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