By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, May 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A diet rich in antioxidants provided by leafy green vegetables and colorful fruits is good for your body, and now new research shows it’s also protective of your brain.
In the study, people whose blood contained the highest amounts of three key antioxidants were less likely to develop dementia from any cause than those whose blood had lower levels of these nutrients.
“The takeaway is that a healthy diet rich in antioxidants from dark leafy green vegetables and orange-pigmented fruits with or without antioxidant supplements may reduce the risk of developing dementia,” said Dr. Luigi Ferrucci. , scientific director of the US National Institute on Aging (NIA), which funded the study.
“But the only way to prove the link between antioxidants and brain health is with a long-term randomized clinical trial to see if fewer people who take a carefully controlled amount of antioxidant supplements develop dementia over time,” he said. added Ferrucci.
For the new research, study author May Beydoun of the NIA in Baltimore and her colleagues studied nearly 7,300 people, ages 45 to 90, who underwent a physical examination, interview and test. blood for antioxidant levels.
The individuals were divided into three groups, based on the level of antioxidants in their blood, and followed for an average of 16 years and up to 26 years.
The researchers found that those with the highest amount of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood were less likely to develop dementia than those with lower levels. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in green leafy foods like kale, spinach, broccoli and peas.
Each standard deviation increase (a measure of the spread of the data from the mean) of these antioxidant levels in the study was associated with a 7% decrease in dementia.
For those who had high levels of another antioxidant called beta-cryptoxanthin, each standard deviation increase was associated with a 14% reduction in dementia risk. Beta-cryptoxanthin is found in orange-pigmented fruits, including oranges, papaya, tangerines, and persimmons.
“Experts believe that consuming antioxidants may help protect cells in the body — including brain cells — from damage,” Ferrucci said.
The impact of antioxidants on dementia risk was reduced somewhat when researchers also took education, income and physical activity into account. These factors may help explain the relationship between antioxidant levels and dementia, the study authors said.
The study also only measured blood at one time and may not reflect participants’ lifetime antioxidant levels.
“It’s important to keep in mind that experts don’t yet know how many antioxidants we need to get each day from our diets and supplements for a healthy brain,” Ferrucci said.
Determining ways to prevent the development of dementia is a significant public health challenge, he added, but results from previous studies have been mixed.
The researchers said antioxidants can help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can damage cells.
“Population studies that follow healthy people over many years for the development of dementia allow us to look for potential risk factors as well as protective factors, such as dietary and lifestyle choices,” noted Ferrucci.
The results were published online May 4 in the journal Neurology.
Yuko Hara, director of aging and Alzheimer’s disease prevention at the Alzheimer’s Drug Development Foundation, said the study was unique in its use of blood markers rather than reminding patients of the foods they ate. they consumed.
Hara also noted that the association between antioxidants and dementia in this study was attenuated when other factors were taken into account.
“It’s not that they’re not involved, it’s the totality I think, and it’s one of the many different things you can do for good brain health,” said Hara, who didn’t. participated in this study.
Hara said his organization recommends seven steps for brain health.
These include good nutrition, with an emphasis on following a Mediterranean diet, getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. .
Other steps include reducing stress, being social, continuing to learn, and managing chronic conditions associated with dementia risk, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
“These are conditions that, if left untreated, also harm your brain health and potentially [increasing] Alzheimer’s risk, as well as the overall risk of dementia. If you have these conditions, you really want to keep them under control with lifestyle interventions or, if there aren’t enough lifestyle interventions, your doctor will most likely prescribe medications to that your blood pressure and blood sugar are well managed,” Hara said. “That’s what we recommend.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on dementia.
SOURCES: Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD, scientific director, US National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Md.; Yuko Hara, PhD, Director, Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention, Alzheimer’s Drug Development Foundation, New York; Neurology, May 4, 2022, online
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