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Colorful Fruits and Veggies to Protect Your Brain

Scientists find that older people who consume lots of fruits and veggies rich in flavonol compounds are less prone to Alzheimer dementia.
Colorful Fruits and Veggies to Protect Your Brain
Produce rich in flavonoids

You’ve always heard you should eat fruits and veggies, because they’re good for you. There’s evidence that can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of bladder cancer. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit with little processed food can help control blood pressure and keep kidneys healthy.

Colorful Fruits and Veggies Are Good for Your Brain:

Here’s another benefit: people who eat fruits and vegetables rich in flavonol compounds may lower their risk of Alzheimer disease. These data come from a community-based prospective study of 921 people, the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP). The volunteers averaged 81 years. They answered detailed dietary questionnaires in 2004 and investigators followed them up until 2018. Significantly, the participants consuming the most dietary flavonols were about half as likely to develop Alzheimer disease compared with those who consumed the least (Neurology, online Jan. 29, 2020). 

What Are Flavonols?

The non-chemists among us may find some terminology confusing. Plants make a lot of compounds for their own uses. One large category is polyphenols. You might have heard them mentioned in connection with wine, coffee or tea. Flavonoids are another category under the polyphenol umbrella, and flavonols are a sub-type of flavonoids.

These plant compounds are found in richly colored fruits and vegetables. The MAP investigators found that kaempferol, iso-rhamnetin and myricetin all protected against Alzheimer disease. First, however, the scientists adjusted for factors such as physical activity, education and participation in cognitively challenging activities. They also took volunteers’ Apo E4 genetic status into account.

What Fruits and Veggies Contain Flavonols?

Luckily, the vegetables that provided protective flavonols are readily available. The researchers report kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli provided the most kaempferol. Pears, olive oil, wine and tomato sauce were important sources of isorhamnetin, while myricetin appeard in tea, wine, kale, oranges and tomatoes. When the scientists looked for evidence that quercetin (sourced from tomatoes, kale, apples and tea) was protective, they found it neutral.

Importantly, the investigators point out that flavonols are particularly effective antioxidants that work both in the gut and the bloodstream. 

In conclusion, they write:

“Our findings suggest that dietary intake of flavonols may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer dementia.”


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Holland TM et al, "Dietary flavonols and risk of Alzheimer dementia." Neurology, online Jan. 29, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000008981
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