Preventing Alzheimers: Flavonoids in Tea, Greens and Berries

by Nils Osmar. Nov. 6, 2022. Medical Disclaimer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 or older are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This number is projected to nearly triple by 2060.

Fortunately, several studies suggest that our diet may be a key factor in forestalling or preventing Alzheimer’s. One recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets high in flavonoids may offer some protection. the authors stated that:

Over an average follow-up of 19.7 y in 2801 participants (mean baseline age = 59.1 y; 52% females), there were 193 ADRD events of which 158 were AD. After multivariate and dietary adjustments, individuals with the highest (>60th percentile) intakes of flavonols, anthocyanins, and flavonoid polymers had a lower risk of ADRD relative to individuals with the lowest intakes (≤15th percentile), with HRs (95% CI; P-trend) of 0.54 (0.32, 0.90; P = 0.003) for flavonols, 0.24 (0.15, 0.39; P < 0.001) for anthocyanins, and 0.58 (0.35, 0.94; P = 0.03) for flavonoid polymers.

The same pattern of associations was seen with AD for flavonols and anthocyanins … Our findings imply that higher long-term dietary intakes of flavonoids are associated with lower risks of ADRD and AD in US adults.

Tea and Alzheimer’s

A 2022 study called Tea consumption and risk of incident dementia found that:

 There was a significant association between tea consumption and a decreased risk of incident dementia after controlling for age, sex and ethnicity (model 1). Even in the further-adjusted model (model 2), the protective effect remained significant. Generally, HRs for incident dementia were 0.819 (95% CI: 0.760–0.884) in model 1 and 0.841 (95% CI: 0.767–0.921) in model 2 for those who reported consumption of tea compared with the non-drinkers. 

Leafy greens may help too

According to a 2018 study, green leafy vegetables appear to be protective against dementia. . Vegetables in this group include:

  • Arugula (rocket)
  • Bok choy (Chinese chard)
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Collard greens (collards)
  • Dandelion greens.
  • Kale
  • Leafy lettuce
  • Mustard greens.
  • Rapini (broccoli raab)
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard.
  • Watercress

From the study

The study, Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change, compared fruit and vegetables. The authors concluded:

The mean cognitive score at baseline for the analyzed cohort was 0.18 (range: -3.5 to 1.6), and the overall mean change in score per year was a decline of 0.04 standardized units.

In mixed effects models adjusted for age, sex, race, and education, compared with the rate of cognitive decline among persons in the lowest quintile of vegetable intake (median of 0.9 servings/day), the rate for persons in the fourth quintile (median, 2.8 servings/day) was slower by 0.019 standardized units per year (p = 0.01), a 40% decrease, and by 0.018 standardized units per year (p = 0.02) for the fifth quintile (median, 4.1 servings/day), or a 38% decrease in rates.

The association remained significant (p for linear trend = 0.02) with further control of cardiovascular-related conditions and risk factors. Fruit consumption was not associated with cognitive change.

Conclusion: High vegetable but not fruit consumption may be associated with slower rate of cognitive decline with older age.

On the other hand…

… prior studies have come to different conclusions, at least when it comes to berries (a subcategory of fruits). One particular study which was published in the Annals of Neurology, reported that consumption of berries rich in flavonoids was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline in women aged 70 and older.

From the second study:

Greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline (eg, for a global score averaging all 6 cognitive tests, for blueberries: p-trend = 0.014 and mean difference = 0.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.01-0.07, comparing extreme categories of intake; for strawberries: p-trend = 0.022 and mean difference = 0.03, 95% CI = 0.00-0.06, comparing extreme categories of intake), after adjusting for multiple potential confounders.

These effect estimates were equivalent to those we found for approximately 1.5 to 2.5 years of age in our cohort, indicating that berry intake appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

Additionally, in further supporting evidence, greater intakes of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline (p-trends = 0.015 and 0.053, respectively, for the global score).

Interpretation: Higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, appears to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.

Add in some tea

What I’m doing

I take a green powder most morning which contains several servings of greens, and eat cabbage, lettuce and other green leafy vegetables in the form of salads. I eat 1/2 cup of wild blueberries (usually in some home-made yogurt) on my “feasting” days.

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplements, just reporting on what I’m doing. All supplements can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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