Rejuvenate… by eating! Yes, because eating is not only a pleasure but also a powerful medicine, if you choose the most colorful and antioxidant-rich foods. In fact, eating colorful foods and especially fruit, vegetables and spices rich in flavonoids has allowed to rejuvenate the brain by reducing the risk of cognitive decline. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published a few days ago in the prestigious journal Neurology by a team from the Harvard TH Chan School of Publich Health, Boston (Yeh et al, Neurology, July 2021).
The benefits of flavonoids on the brain
Flavonoids are antioxidant substances contained in foods of plant origin and capable of counteracting the damage of free radicals. Thanks to previous studies, the protective role of flavonoids on the brain was already known. In particular, research had shown that low levels of flavonoids may contribute to increasing the risk of cognitive decline with advancing age. But flavonoids are not all the same, there are different types. Therefore, the research we are talking about today has explored the effects on brain health of different types of flavonoids to understand their long-term action.
The study recruited 49,493 women, average age 48, and 27,842 men, average age 51. The volunteers were followed for 20 years, regularly undergoing questionnaires to assess the diet, from which to extrapolate the intake of flavonoids, and the state of health of the brain. In particular, the study sought to capture the first variations in cognitive function, even before these could emerge from screening tests but sufficient to be noticed by the person.
Five strawberries rejuvenate the brain
What emerged was that, as might be expected, people who ate the highest amount of flavonoid-rich foods daily, for example 5 or 6 strawberries a day or an apple and two strawberries, had a 20% lower risk of developing cognitive impairment. And that's not all.
Flavones and anthocyanins, the most powerful and beneficial
Analyzing the different types of flavonoids, two in particular were found to be most beneficial in protecting the brain, flavones and anthocyanins. Flavones are mainly contained in fresh parsley, mint, celery, but also in yellow or orange fruit and vegetables, such as peppers or citrus peel. Flavones were found to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment by 38%, which is the equivalent of being three to four years younger in age. Anthocyanins are antioxidants found, for example, in blueberries, blackberries and cherries, but also aubergines and red cabbage, and are associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment.
So, inserting colorful foods such as citrus fruits, berries, aromatic herbs, peppers and cherries into your diet protects the brain and cognitive function, indeed allows you to rejuvenate! Then, as pointed out by the authors of the study themselves, it is important never to think that it is too late. In fact, the benefits were observed both in those who had followed a diet rich in flavonoids for 20 years and in those who had more recently started to include foods rich in flavones and anthocyanins in their diet.