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Apples and Alzheimer’s

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Diet and nutrition don’t generally come to mind when thinking about Alzheimer’s disease prevention. However, eating certain foods on a regular basis during middle age may help to keep it at bay, while a lower intake of the same foods could significantly increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later on, according to new research.

In a 20-year study of 2,800 adults age 50 and over, those who consumed more foods rich in flavonoids – such as apples, berries, tea, red wine and dark chocolate – were two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) compared with people whose flavonoid intake was low.

 Flavonoids are substances found in plants which have been associated with many health benefits, including reduced inflammation.

The study found that participants’ low intake (defined as 15th percentile or lower) of three types of flavonoids was linked to increased dementia risk when compared to the highest intake (greater than 60th percentile). 

Here are more specific examples of what those results mean:

• High flavonoid intake was equal to roughly 7.5 cups of blueberries or strawberries per month, eight apples and pears per month, and 19 cups of tea per month.

• Low flavonoid consumption was equal to eating no berries per month, roughly one and a half apples per month, and no tea. This was associated with up to four times greater risk of developing ADRD later in life.

While other research has looked at nutrition and its relationship to dementia over shorter periods, this long-term study led by scientists at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University was among the first of its kind. It was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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