January 24, 2022 4 min read

The Plant-Based Eating Secret for Protecting Brain Health and Fighting Dementia

The Plant-Based Eating Secret for Protecting Brain Health and Fighting Dementia 

We already know that a plant-based diet is associated with cardiovascular health, lowered risk of chronic illness and inflammation, and longevity. Now, thanks to a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, we know that a diet rich in specific plant products also reduces the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in the elderly.

 

The research was performed by the Biomarkers and Nutritional Food Metabolomics Research Group of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the CIBER on Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES).

In their findings, the study’s authors report that there is a protective association between the metabolites derived from polyphenol-rich foods such as apples, green tea, blackcurrants, oranges, and pomegranates, cocoa, coffee, mushrooms, and red wine and cognitive impairment in the elderly. The research was carried out over 12 years with the participation of 842 people aged over 65 in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions of France.

“A higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods provides polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline due to ageing,” says the study’s lead researcher, Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and head of the Biomarkers and Nutritional Metabolomics of Food Research Group of the UB.

While the association between eating plant-based foods for brain health and cognitive functioning is not necessarily new, this study is considered a more reliable means of measurement, so the findings are significant. “This study used metabolomics as a measurement tool, which is unique among research involving cognitive decline,” explains health coach and personal trainer Aimee Nicotera, MS, RD. “So rather then relying on food diaries or other [less scientific] means of quantifying nutritional intake, small molecule metabolic products from the blood serum were actually identified as markers and subsequently measured.”

Nicotera goes on to note that the study included a large sample size and was designed using two nested case-controlled sample sets. “This means instead of just following a group of people and collecting data, researchers have healthy controls for each case. This type of design is considered valid and efficient for diagnostic studies.”


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