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With plant proteins you save the brain from the risk of cognitive decline

With plant proteins you save the brain from the risk of cognitive decline

We too can do our part against cognitive decline. In fact, there are some modifiable factors, this means factors on which we can act to reduce the risk of undergoing dementia. One such factor is diet. In addition to introducing foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, such as green tea, avocado, tomatoes, broccoli and yogurt with probiotics, just to name a few, proteins, and in particular plant proteins, also seem to play a protective role. This emerges from a very recent scientific research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a team from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston (Yeh et al, AJCN, July 2021).

Lifestyle and risk of cognitive decline

Much research in recent years has been devoted to trying to understand how to counter, prevent or at least slow down cognitive decline. An active life that keeps the brain busy, even with games, puzzles, writing and reading, certainly has a beneficial role in brain health. Not only that, the diet aimed at counteracting free radical damage and inflammation, thanks to foods rich in lycopene, such as watermelon and tomatoes, but also in lutein, such as broccoli, sweet pepper and spinach, and flavonoids, such as green tea, berries, citrus and chocolate, but also fatty fish and extra virgin olive oil, has been shown to counteract the onset of cognitive decline. Until now, however, the role played by animal and plant proteins was not fully known. That's why researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have come up with a study to shed some light on this aspect.

The role of proteins in brain health, the experiment

Scientists drew on the health and diet data of 49,493 women, all participants in a large study performed between 1984 and 2006 called the Nurses' Health Study, and of 27842 men participating in another large study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, carried out between 1986 and 2002.

Plant proteins, the best to protect cognitive function

Researchers have extrapolated the amount of protein eaten in the diet, differentiating between animal and plant proteins. Then, the scientists compared the amount of protein ingested and the state of mental health and any presence of cognitive decline. What emerged was that, in general, an increase in the intake of proteins compared to carbohydrates led to a reduction in the risk of cognitive decline. In particular, the benefits have already been observed by replacing 5% of the calories consumed through carbohydrates with proteins. Not only that, proteins are not all the same. The researchers observed that consuming higher amounts of plant proteins, such as beans and legumes, but also proteins from fish and lean poultry, led to a reduction in the risk of dementia, compared to the intake of animal-based proteins. For example, a regular increase in the consumption of hotdogs has led to an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Conclusions

Therefore, a healthy and balanced diet also includes vegetable sources of proteins, such as legumes and beans, but also proteins from fish and poultry, which help support cognitive function and decrease the risk of dementia.
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