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Seniors' Health: Veggies, not fruit, may slow cognitive decline

Daily servings of green leafy vegetables are associated with better memory skills

Seniors who eat several daily servings of vegetables can preserve their brainpower as they age, a recent study has shown.

Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago administered diet questionnaires to more than 3,700 people age 65 and older and gave them tests of memory and other mental skills at the beginning of the study and three and six years later.

“Compared with people who consumed less than one serving of vegetables a day, people who ate at least 2.8 servings of vegetables a day saw their rate of cognitive change slow by roughly 40 per cent,” says lead author Martha Clare Morris. “This decrease is equivalent to about five years of younger age.”

Green leafy vegetables had the strongest association with slowing the rate of cognitive decline. The study also found the older the person, the greater the brainpower benefit of consuming more than two servings of vegetables a day.

One unanticipated finding: Fruit consumption was not associated with cognitive benefit.

Morris speculates that this “may be due to vegetables containing high amounts of vitamin E, which helps lower the risk of cognitive decline. Vegetables, but not fruit, are also typically consumed with added fats such as salad dressings, and fats increase the absorption of vitamin E.”

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