Flavonoids are a beneficial natural substance that can help prevent inflammation, lower cancer risk, and help address other diseases. Research has also found that they may help protect against Alzheimer’s.
A team from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University looked at the link between flavonoid consumption and Alzheimer’s. They found that for those who consumed very few foods rich in flavonoids, the risk of developing the disease was higher, while those who consumed a large amount had a much lower risk. You can read their complete findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Because there’s not much that can currently be done to treat Alzheimer’s, these results are important.
Paul Jacques, the study’s senior author and nutritional epidemiologist at the research center, says, “Alzheimer’s disease is a significant public health challenge. Given the absence of drug treatments, preventing Alzheimer’s disease through a healthy diet is an important consideration.”
To conduct the study, the dietary habits of 2,809 people in the Framingham Heart Study were tracked for nearly 20 years. Researchers found that low intake of three types of flavonoids was connected with a higher risk of developing both Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s and related dementias (ADRD).
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Those who consumed low amounts of flavonols and flavonoid polymers had twice the risk of developing ADRD compared to those who consumed high quantities, while low intake of anthocyanins jumped to a risk four times as high. The results were similar for Alzheimer’s disease.
On the flip side, Jacques says, “Our study showed that individuals with the highest intakes of flavonoids were more than 50% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, relative to those with the lowest intakes.”
For reference, the team considered low intake to be little to no monthly consumption of foods containing flavonoids, while high intake translated to an average of several servings per week.
So what are some flavonoid-packed foods you can add to your diet?
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Hot peppers
- Red wine
Some of these are especially helpful, and you may not even need to increase your intake all that much to see benefits.
The study’s lead author Esra Shishtar, who was a doctoral student at Tufts University when the study was conducted, explains, “Tea, specifically green tea, and berries are good sources of flavonoids. When we look at the study results, we see that the people who may benefit the most from consuming more flavonoids are people at the lowest levels of intake, and it doesn’t take much to improve levels. A cup of tea a day or some berries two or three times a week would be adequate.”
The researchers also stress that the average age for the participants when data was first collected was 50, so it’s not too late to change some of your habits.
Jacques explains, “The risk of dementia really starts to increase over age 70, and the take home message is, when you are approaching 50 or just beyond, you should start thinking about a healthier diet if you haven’t already.”
It’s not just humans who benefit from flavonoids. They also help plants with frost hardiness, drought resistance, and possibly freezing tolerance.Whizzco