The passage of time, aging, the shortening of telomeres… It’s something we can not avoid. As we age, naturally, cognitive skills and memory decrease.
However, eating a serving of green leafy vegetables a day can help preserve memory and cognitive abilities, according to a study conducted by researchers at Rush University in Chicago.
The folic acid, the B group vitamins, is found in large quantities in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard or lettuce.
In a statement issued by the University, which has published research in the prestigious scientific journal Neurology, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, nutritional epidemiologist, explains the results of the study and how it is possible that the introduction of such a simple habit in the diet may have such implications for the brain:
“Adding a daily serving of leafy greens to the diet can be a simple way to help promote brain health,” he says.
In the West there continues to be a strong increase in people with dementia due to the aging of the population and the longer life expectancy. Therefore, explains the doctor, “effective strategies are needed to prevent dementia.”
In the research, 960 older adults completed food questionnaires and received annual cognitive evaluations, in a follow-up that lasted almost 5 years.
The results were clear: of the people observed in the research, those who periodically consumed a portion of green leafy vegetables had a slower rate of decline in memory tests and thinking skills than people who rarely or never ingested them.
In addition, older adults with this eating habit showed signs of being cognitively 11 years younger.
The more often, the better
Participants also completed the food frequency questionnaire, which assessed the frequency and number of half-cup servings that ate green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard or lettuce.
Specifically, the study divided participants into five groups based on how often they ate leafy green vegetables, and compared the cognitive assessments of those who ate the most (an average of about 1.3 servings per day) and those who ate the least. (0.1 servings per day).
In general, the scores of the participants in the thinking and memory tests decreased at a normal rate, corresponding to the normal degradation of the abilities associated with age.
However, the rate of cognitive decline for those who ingest the vegetables was often slower than the rate for those who consumed less vegetables of this type. A difference in capacity loss equivalent to being 11 years younger, according to Morris.
The study even took into account variables involved that affect brain health: the consumption of alcoholic beverages, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, educational level and the amount of physical and cognitive activities.
Even so, the relationship established by the study may present nuances. “The results of the study do not prove that eating green leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but it shows an association,” Dr. Morris said. “The study can not rule out other possible reasons for this relationship.”
Because the study focused on older adults, the results may not apply to younger adults. From now on, the results should be confirmed by other researchers in different populations and by means of randomized trials to establish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of green leaves and the reduction in the incidence of cognitive deterioration.