Chances are you won’t find flavonols on the restaurant menu or listed by name on your grocer’s shelf. But if you’re interested in preserving a healthy brain – and who isn’t? – it’s a word you might want to get used to. A recent nutritional study, as reported in this recent article from the HealthDay website, says older adults who regularly consume foods rich in a type of antioxidants called flavonols may have a significantly decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Diet and Dementia: Study of 900 Seniors Shows Promising Results
Reporter Amy Norton penned the HealthDay article which appeared online on January 29th. She was describing an ongoing research study that tracked over 900 seniors for a period of at least six years. Among other findings, the data on diet and brain health seemed especially promising. “Older adults who regularly consume a group of antioxidants called flavonols may have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” the study suggests. These compounds “exist in many fruits and vegetables, with the richest sources including green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, apples and tea.” (One way to remember the term: the “a” in flavonols is pronounced like the “a” in flavor.)
The new findings, published online in the medical journal Neurology, says researchers “followed 921 older adults in an ongoing project looking at aging and memory.” At the start of the study, the subjects averaged 81 years old. Each was asked about diet, other lifestyle habits and medical history. Each subject was then given annual neurological evaluations to look for any indication of dementia. “Over six years,” says the HealthDay article, “220 study participants were diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s. The risk, it turned out, was 48 percent lower for the one-fifth with the highest flavonol intake, versus the one-fifth with the lowest.” That significant difference confirmed other studies linking a healthy diet and a healthy brain.
Diet and Dementia: Can You Order a Side of Flavonols?
So, since you can’t order flavonols off the menu, where can you get them? It turns out that these powerful antioxidants are in many of the foods and drinks you already enjoy. “People largely got their flavonols from kale, spinach, broccoli, apples, pears, beans, tomatoes, tea, olive oil and wine,” said HealthDay. Researchers found that the 20 percent of subjects who were the highest flavonol consumers took in about 15 milligrams per day, which was three times the amount consumed by the bottom 20 percent. The study authors emphasized that you don’t have to become “a full-fledged vegetarian” to hit the 15-milligram mark: “Half a cup of cooked leafy greens (or one cup of raw), a half-cup of berries, and a half-cup of other cooked vegetables should do it,” the article stated.
The HealthDay article naturally contained a note of caution. “The findings do not prove the antioxidants are a magic bullet against dementia, the researchers stressed. But they add to evidence that a healthy diet – including plenty of fruits and vegetables – may help protect the aging brain.” Other research, as we said, has shown the connection between healthy eating habits and better brain health, but this study, said lead author Thomas Holland of Chicago’s Rush University, is one of the first to delve into the reasons why flavonols make a difference. The key, scientists believe, lies in the abilities of flavonols to fight inflammation.
Diet and Dementia: Flavonols Appear to Reduce Damaging Inflammation
Research on laboratory mice has shown how these antioxidants go to work in the brain. Besides reducing inflammation, which has been linked to neurological damage, flavonols also appear to reduce the buildup of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, deposits which are linked to various forms of dementia. This appears to improve memory and learning abilities. To get the flavonols we need, the Rush University team advocates a diet dubbed the “MIND diet” which combines the traditional Mediterranean diet with the diet doctors recommend to control hypertension.
There are many sources of information about brain-healthy diets. This page on the website of the Alzheimer’s Association is a good place to start. The gist of these diets is based on common sense: eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries and beans. Eat whole grains, not processed flour. Eat plenty of fish and poultry and cut back on red meat. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil and watch out for sources of fat like cheese, butter and heavy salad dressings. If you drink alcohol, wine is fine but in moderation. Pastries and sweets are limited to special occasions.
Diet and Dementia: A Health Brain is More than Healthy Eating
Remember, too, that nothing we know of today can prevent dementia, but there are several healthy behaviors that seem promising. Besides eating a good diet, you should exercise regularly and stay socially active. Mentally stimulating activities are good for the brain, but some studies have shown that few activities benefit the brain more than lively conversation with other people. Try to find a sense of purpose in your life, no matter what stage you’re in. We also urge you to find the right doctor – a geriatrician – as your primary health care provider. He or she will help you navigate the journey of aging because a geriatrician is uniquely trained in the physical and emotional needs of seniors. Contact AgingOptions and we’ll gladly refer you to a geriatrician in your area.
Brain Health, Like Retirement Health, Demands a “Symphony” of Healthy Choices
Keeping your brain healthy demands a wide-ranging approach. As one researcher commented, “It’s not one thing in isolation. It’s more like a symphony.” We can’t help noting how that analogy also applies to retirement planning. Rather than focusing entirely on one thing – a financial plan, perhaps, or the right health insurance – a comprehensive approach demands that you consider all the essential elements of a retirement plan as an integrated whole, where the key pieces all mesh seamlessly together: finances, health care, housing plans, family communication, and legal protection. We call this a LifePlan, and only AgingOptions offers it.
Please accept Rajiv’s invitation to join him for an information-packed LifePlanning Seminar where he’ll answer your questions and explain the process in greater detail. We know you’ll be very glad you invested a few hours to meet Rajiv in person and hear what he has to say about the right way to plan for your retirement future. We offer free LifePlanning Seminars throughout the region, so there’s likely to be one coming up that’s convenient for you. Visit our Live Events page for a current seminar calendar and register for the event of your choice.
It takes a “symphony” of good choices to keep your brain healthy – and a symphony of good planning to keep your retirement on track. We’re excited to show you how it can be done with an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)