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Eat the rainbow and stay sharp

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Eating a ‘rainbow diet’ reduces your risk of cognitive decline.

A plate of colourful fruits and vegetables—such as strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples—reduces your risk of memory loss and mental decline by around 20 percent.

The ‘rainbow’ foods are packed with flavonoids—and especially flavones and anthocyanins—that help protect our mental capabilities, especially as we get older.  Flavonoids are “powerhouses” that help arrest mental decline, often a forerunner of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from Harvard University tracked the health and diets of nearly 50,000 women, with an average age of 48, and 28,000 men, aged around 51, for 20 years.  Their ability to recall events or remember short lists was regularly checked through a questionnaire.

Those who ate the most flavonoids—around 600 mg, or half a serving a day—also had the highest scores on the tests and were 20 percent less likely to suffer mental decline compared to those who ate the least amount of flavonoids.

Strawberries are especially rich in flavonoids, the researchers said, although flavones gave the greatest protection against mental decline, and these are found in spices and in yellow or orange fruits and vegetables.  These alone reduced the risk of cognitive decline by 38 percent, which equates to a brain that is biologically four years ‘younger’.  Anthocyanins, found in blueberries, blackberries and cherries, reduced the risk by 24 percent.

The other piece of good news is that it’s never too late to start.  Even those who took up the rainbow diet later in life enjoyed similar protective effects as others who had been eating the diet for 20 years.

(Source: Neurology, 2021; 10: 1212/WNL.00000000000012454)

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