Eating green leafy vegetables could reduce brain age by around eleven years, a new study finds.
Vitamin K in foods like mustard greens, spinach, kale and collards have been linked to slower cognitive decline for the first time.
Professor Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist who led the research, said:
“Losing one’s memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older.
Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”
The study followed 954 older adults with an average age of 81 over around five years.
They found that people who ate just two servings per day of leafy vegetables had better cognitive powers than those who ate none.
The difference was equivalent to having a brain fully 11 years younger.
The nutrients most likely responsible for the boost, the researchers found, were vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein.
Professor Morris said:
“Our study identified some very novel associations.
No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein.”
Reduce brain age
Other good sources of vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein which may reduce brain age include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
Professor Morris concluded:
“With baby boomers approaching old age, there is huge public demand for lifestyle behaviors that can ward off loss of memory and other cognitive abilities with age.
Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning.”
The research was presented at the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2015 in Boston.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Vegetable brain image from Shutterstock