Neurology :: Vegetables may help protect memory and thinking speed

Vegetables – particularly green, leafy ones – will preserve the brain power if you eat three servings a day, new research shows. People who consumed two or more vegetables a day had a 35 to 40 percent decrease in the decline in thinking ability over six years. That’s the equivalent of being five years younger in age. The study results are published in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal Neurology.

Morris’ team studied 3,718 research participants 65 or older who live in the south side of Chicago. Sixty-two percent were black, 38 percent were non-Hispanic white, and 62 percent were female.

The study also found that the slowdown in cognitive decline was greatest in the oldest people who ate at least two more vegetable servings a day.

Because the cognitive tests measured overall thinking ability, the benefits of eating vegetables may translate into an easier time with such everyday tasks as remembering phone numbers and names and balancing checkbooks, Morris said.

Morris suspects that vegetables may help protect memory and thinking speed because they contain high amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help reduce the damage caused by free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules generated by normal metabolism that can damage neurons in the brain and contribute to dementia.

One of the most common antioxidants found in fruit, vitamin C, has not been consistently shown to protect the brain, Morris said. Most of her study participants consumed fruit such as oranges, grapefruits, apples and bananas, which are high in vitamin C.

“Further research will be needed to take account of how the fruit is prepared, as peeling may greatly reduce the amounts of antioxidants available,” Anderson said.

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