What Foods Can Help Prevent Dementia?
Two of the three compounds that can help reduce the chances of dementia are lutein and zeaxanthin. They are found in many vegetables and leafy greens, as well as in peas and spinach. Oranges and papaya are the main sources of the third ingredient, beta-cryptoxanthin, explains The Jerusalem Post’s recent article entitled “These three foods may help prevent dementia.”
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. May Beydoun, an expert on aging at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, said that expanding people’s cognitive functioning is an important challenge to public health and that “antioxidants may help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can damage cells,” she said.
However, Dr. Beydoun also noted that more research is needed to test whether antioxidants really “can help protect the brain from dementia.”
In a study published in the journal Neurology, Dr. Beydoun and the other researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 7,000 Americans. All participants were at least 45 years old and were physically examined, then interviewed at the beginning of the study. They were then followed up for 16 years, on average to monitor for dementia. Participants were divided into three groups based on the level of the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin in their blood.
The findings showed that an increase of 15.4 micromoles per liter of lutein and zeaxanthin levels was associated with a 7% decrease in the risk of dementia. An increase of 8.6 micromoles per liter of beta-cryptoxanthin reduced the chance of developing dementia by 14%.
The effect of antioxidants on dementia diminished when other factors were considered, including education, income, and exercise, the study found. “These factors may help explain the association between antioxidant and dementia levels,” Beydoun added. The team clarified that the findings are limited because they are based on a single blood test taken at the beginning of the study, which means that “they may not reflect people’s levels during their lifetime.”
Many studies have already shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of dementia, from which tens of millions of people suffer worldwide. Experts have said that eating a particular diet may affect biological mechanisms that trigger dementia. What a person eats can also be indirectly linked to dementia by increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which are known to be linked to dementia. Studies have found that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and fish lowers blood pressure, which is a risk factor for the disease.
Dr. James Connell, an Alzheimer’s researcher, said that previous findings on the link between antioxidants and the risk of dementia showed “mixed” results. When lifestyle factors, socioeconomic status and physical activity were considered, the reduced risk found in the new study was smaller. Connell added that it’s important that researchers continue to study the protective effects of antioxidants in the context of other risk factors and work to understand how they’re connected.
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Reference: The Jerusalem Post (May 17, 2022) “These three foods may help prevent dementia”