Foods loaded with antioxidant flavonols, like wine, may defend against cognitive decline, according to a new study published on November 22 in Neurology, part of the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal.
Flavonols are phytochemicals that reside in plant pigment. They are a type of flavonoid (or bioflavonoid) that carries health benefits. They are prevalent not only in wine, but also in tea and fruit.
Study author Thomas M. Holland, MD, MS of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, is encouraged by the findings. “It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline,” he said. “Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in maintaining their brain health.”
To determine the findings, the authors analyzed questionnaires and test results from 961 dementia-free individuals with a mean age of 81. The data was gathered over the course of seven years, on average.
The subjects were asked to list the frequency they consume specific foods. They also took part in annual tests assessing their cognitive abilities and memory recall. Other factors, like education, amount of physical activity, and time spent reading, among others, were also considered.
Subjects were categorized into one of five groupings based on their flavonol intake levels. On average, U.S. adults consume 16 to 20 milligrams per day, but the study participants averaged 10 mg. The lowest group in the study were those intaking roughly 5 mg per day, while the highest group averaged 15 mg.
Scores were applied to 19 separate cognitive tests, with grades ranging from 0.5 to -0.5. A score of 0.5 indicated no cognitive decline, 0.2 meant mild decline, and -0.5 corresponded to Alzheimer’s disease.
After accounting for factors that could affect memory, like gender or age, the researchers found that flavonol intake was positively correlated with slowing cognitive decay. The group with the highest consumption experienced a decrease of 0.4 units per decade slower than the lowest intake group.
Holland suspects flavonols’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are likely the cause of the discrepancy between the groups.
The type of flavonol also impacted the results. Of the four classes studied, kaempferol was found to elicit the greatest benefits. It is found heavily in spinach, broccoli, kale, beans, and tea.
While the research reveals a potential correlation between protective mental benefits and flavonol consumption, Holland clarified that the results do not necessarily mean the compounds directly cause the slowing of cognitive decline. Future studies will be needed to explore the relationship further.
The research, while promising, was not without limitations. Self-reporting, which can be prone to bias and error, was leveraged for the study.
All in all, let “winos” rejoice at the possibility of wine sliding back into the “good” category.