Amidst an increase in the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases like cognitive decline and dementia in recent decades, dietary patterns have emerged as perhaps the major modifiable risk factor for these conditions. Plant-based diets and regular consumption of coffee and black and green tea have each been shown to reduce risk for mood and cognitive disorders. Previous studies have also linked higher intakes of flavonoids and other polyphenols with longer lifespans and better clinical outcomes related to cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, and memory.
There is growing evidence for the ability of flavonoids to alleviate oxidative stress, inhibit biological aging processes, and modulate cellular as well as systemic inflammation. These mechanisms of action are thought to limit cerebrovascular damage, aid neuronal remodeling and neuroplasticity, and protect the blood-brain barrier.
Among over 2000 subjects assessed as part of the original MEAL study, 808 eligible individuals living in southern Italy and aged 50 years or over were included in this cohort analysis. Participants were interviewed regarding their demographic and lifestyle characteristics, completed diet questionnaires that were validated for measuring intakes of flavonoids and other nutrients, and evaluated for cognitive health status using the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire, validated for distinguishing among intact, mildly impaired, or moderately impaired cognitive function. Multivariate analysis of results considered age, sex, total energy intake, body mass index, physical activity, education, occupation, smoking, alcohol intake, menopause, and major disease status.
Higher Flavonoid Intake Linked to Better Cognitive Function
Greater consumption of flavonoid-rich foods has been linked to cognitive health, and this study highlights the special contributions of quercetin, anthocyanins, catechins, flavonols, and flavanones to these findings. These flavonoids are found in berries, green and black tea, citrus fruits, buckwheat, cruciferous vegetables, and other deeply-colored fruits and vegetables.