'Exciting': Wine and Tea Among the Foods That Could Slow Memory Decline

Scientists have identified certain foods and beverages, including wine and tea, that may slow down the rate of memory decline.

Those who eat foods with more flavonols, a type of phytochemical found in plants, are probably less likely to experience memory loss problems later in life—in the form of dementia or Alzheimer's, for example—according to American Academy of Neurology research published Tuesday in the journal Neurology.

Flavonols are mainly found in plant pigments. An antioxidant, they are known for having beneficial effects on health. Scientists have already determined that the chemicals have anti-inflammatory effects that can prevent certain types of diseases, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer. They have previously been linked to the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's, and research in this area is ongoing.

On average, U.S adults consume 16 to 20 milligrams of flavonols a day, the study reported. Red wine in particular holds a lot of flavonols. All teas contain flavonols, but the amount varies from type to type.

"It's exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline," study author Thomas Holland of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center said in a press release. "Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in maintaining their brain health."

Good foods, beverages for brain health
A study says certain foods and beverages can maintain brain health. They include red wine, tomatoes, apples and tea. iStock/Getty Images

The findings came from a study of 961 people aged 81, without dementia, over seven years. Scientists asked them each year to detail how often they ate certain foods while giving them annual cognitive memory tests. The participants were also assessed on their level of education and physical activity. Participants were asked to recall words and numbers and asked to put things in the correct order.

To assess the rates of cognitive decline in each participant, researchers used a score ranging from 0.5 (for people with no memory problems) to 0.2 (people with minor trouble remembering things) to -0.5 (people who showed signs of Alzheimer's disease).

Scientists found that the cognitive score of those who had the highest flavonol intake had a much slower memory decline, 0.4 units per decade slower than those who had the lowest intake.

The foods found to slow cognitive decline down the most were:

  • Kale
  • Beans
  • Tea
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Wine
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce

This result was likely due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories contained within the foods. The study also broke the flavonol class down into four beneficial chemical compounds: kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin and isorhamnetin.

Although the study showed there may be a link between flavonols and slower cognitive decline, it did not prove that they directly prevent memory decline.

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