We all know that we should be getting more fruits and vegetables in order to stay healthy. But can the produce we eat help ward off negative cognitive changes, such as short-term memory loss, as we grow older?
To answer this question, researchers examined the association between cognitive change and fruit/vegetable consumption in 3,718 men and women aged 65 years and older who were enrolled in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Participants completed food questionnaires and underwent mental-function tests three times over a 6-year period.
Those who ate more than two vegetable servings a day had about 40% less mental decline than those who ate fewer or no veggies each day. Interestingly, fruit consumption did not yield similar benefits. The reason may be that vegetables contain larger amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant thought to reduce cell damage. Veggies also contain healthy oils that promote cardiovascular health and decrease cholesterol levels, both of which contribute to brain health.
Writing in the October 24, 2006, issue of Neurology, the authors concluded that “high vegetable but not fruit consumption may be associated with [a] slower rate of cognitive decline with older age.”