A new study shows that people who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids like strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline. The research was published in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The researchers looked at several types of flavonoids, and found that flavones and anthocyanins may have the most protective effect.
Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and are considered powerful antioxidants. The study looked at 49,493 women with an average of 48 years and 27,842 men with an average age of 51. They followed up the individuals for 20 years and people completed several questionnaires about how often they ate various foods.
The people in the group that represented the highest 20% of flavonoid consumers, on average, had about 600 milligrams (mg) in their diets each day, compared to the people in the lowest 20% of flavonoid consumers, who had about 150 mg in their diets each day. Strawberries, for example, have about 180 mg of flavonoids per 100 gram serving, while apples have about 113.
The researchers found that people who consumed more flavonoids in their diets reported lower risk of cognitive decline. They also looked at individual flavonoids. Flavones, found in some spices and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, had the strongest protective qualities, and were associated with 38% reduction in risk of cognitive decline, equivalent to being 3-4 years younger in age. Another flavonoid, anthocyanins, found in berries and cherries, were associated with a 24% reduced risk of cognitive decline.
The researchers said that it’s never too late to start adding some color to your plate, because they saw that the protective relationships whether people were consuming the flavonoids in their diet 20 years ago, or if they started incorporating them more recently.
Some examples of the quantity of flavonoids in foods are:
- Blueberries (anthocyanins): 163.5 mg per 100 g consumed.
- Cranberries (anthocyanins): 91.88 mg per 100 g consumed.
- Cherries (anthocyanins): 80.19 mg per 100 g consumed.
- Black tea (flavan-3-ol): 115.25 mg per 100 g of brewed tea.
Tian-Shin Yeh, Changzheng Yuan, Alberto Ascherio, Bernard Rosner, Walter Willett, Deborah Blacker. Long-term Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Subjective Cognitive Decline in US Men and Women. Neurology, 2021.
American Academy of Neurology. “Adding color to your plate may lower risk of cognitive decline.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2021.