The health benefits of a flavonol-rich diet: Eating apples, teas, and berries can improve your memory
An apple a day may keep the doctor away; now new research is showing that it may protect against age-related memory loss as well. In a three-year study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Columbia and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard found that participants whose diet was high in flavonols had better short-term memory than those who didn’t.
The study included more than 3,500 people who were mostly white and around 71 years old. Participants were randomly assigned a daily supplement in pill form containing the recommended amount of 500 milligrams of flavonols, or a placebo pill. Participants completed a survey about the quality of their diets at the beginning of the study and then performed online activities at home to evaluate the short-term memory controlled by the hippocampus part of the brain. The tests were repeated each year and more than a third of participants also supplied urine samples so that researchers could measure dietary flavonol levels.
“The improvement among study participants with low-flavanol diets was substantial and raises the possibility of using flavanol-rich diets or supplements to improve cognitive function in older adults,” Adam M. Brickman, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and co-leader of the study, said in a press release about the study.
While researchers cannot definitively conclude whether low dietary intake of flavonols alone causes poor memory performance, they agree the next step is a clinical trial to restore flavonol levels in adults who are deficient.
“Age-related memory decline is thought to occur sooner or later in nearly everyone, though there is a great amount of variability,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Scott A. Small, the Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the press release. [read more]