Could Eating Leafy Greens Every Day Ward Off Dementia?

spinach photo

Recent research suggests that one to two servings of leafy green vegetables daily could prevent the onset of cognitive decline, and perhaps, dementia.

Results from a study of almost 1,000 older people showed that those who ate around one serving of leafy greens every day had younger brains than those who rarely or never ate vegetables.

Published in the journal Neurology, the study was led by Dr. Martha Morris from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago.

"Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health," said Dr. Morris.

"Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical."

Researchers analysed the eating habits of 960 people without dementia over a period of 4.7 years. The participants had an average age of 81.

After undertaking cognitive and memory tests, the group were divided into five groups based on how often they ate leafy greens. The group that ate the most leafy greens averaged around 1.3 servings a day, while the group that ate the least averaged around 0.1 servings a day.

Overall, the participants' scores on the thinking and memory tests declined over time at a rate of 0.08 standardised units per year. Over a decade of follow-up, the rate of decline for those who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardised units per year than the rate of those who ate the least leafy greens, a difference equivalent of being 11 years younger in age.

Those performing best in memory and intelligence tests ate an average of about 1.3 servings a day

Dr. James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Society has commented on the research, suggesting that while eating vegetables is good for your memory, the study shows no direct impact on slowing down dementia.

He said, "It's no secret that eating vegetables is good for your health. This study found eating food rich in vitamin K - like spinach, kale, asparagus and everyone's favourite, Brussels sprouts - appears to slow cognitive decline as people age.

"The researchers did not directly look at dementia, so we cannot say that it would delay or prevent the onset of the condition. However, older people who ate one or two servings of vitamin K rich food per day performed better on memory tests than those who didn't. In fact, their scores were similar to those of people 11 years younger, irrespective of other factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and education level."

While the study didn't look specifically at dementia, the participants who ate one or two servings performed better in memory and intelligence tests than those who didn't, regardless of other factors like obesity, high blood pressure and level of education.

Pile your plate high with leafy greens, including spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage and sprouts, to reap the brain-boosting benefits. A serving size is around 100g.