Adding more greens to your diet could be the way to live a longer life with a sharper brain, according to a study conducted by Rush University in Chicago. The study set out to understand the relations between cognitive decline and primary nutrients that can be found within most leafy greens.
The researchers concluded that consuming around one serving of leafy green vegetables per day could help to slow cognitive decline with aging. The study’s lead author Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush, said knowing how to prolong brain health is important in preventing cognitive decline.
“Adding a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to promote brain health,” Morris said in a press release. “There continue to be sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number. Effective strategies to prevent dementia are critically needed.”
The 960 study participants were ages 58 to 99 years old and completed a food frequency questionnaire. The participants also had less than or equal to two cognitive assessments over an average of 4.7 years.
The food frequency questionnaire asked participants about how frequently they consumed leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, greens and lettuce, as well as how many half-cup servings consumed. Participants were divided into five groups based on their responses.
Researchers adjusted for age, sex, education, participation in cognitive activities, physical activities, smoking, seafood and alcohol consumption and the consumption of green leafy vegetables. Those who reported the highest intakes of green, leafy vegetables were found to have a cognitive decline rate slower than the rest, and were the mental equivalent of 11 years younger in age.
“The study results do not prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but it does show an association,” Morris said. “The study cannot rule out other possible reasons for the link.”
The study focused on the effects of primary nutrients including vitamin K, lutein, beta carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol and α-tocopherol, and concluded that leafy greens and other foods rich in the specific nutrients could help slow cognitive decline. The researchers said the participants were mainly white, older adults and the results may not apply to younger adults or to people of color.
Further research was suggested to fully understand the link between the nutrients, leafy greens and cognitive decline. Morris said the study should be conducted by different investigators for different populations through randomized trials in order to establish a relationship between leafy green consumption and preventing cognitive decline.