Lots of leafy greens might shield aging brains, study finds

March 30, 2015 by Alan Mozes, Healthday Reporter
Lots of leafy greens might shield aging brains, study finds
Vitamin K thought to slow deterioration.

(HealthDay)—A single serving of leafy green vegetables each day may help keep dementia away, new research suggests.

Researchers evaluated the eating habits and mental ability of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years.

Those who consumed one or two servings of foods such as spinach, kale, mustard greens and/or collards daily experienced slower mental deterioration than those who ate no at all, the study found.

The brain benefits associated with dark leafy greens likely stem from several key nutrients, particularly vitamin K, said study lead author Martha Clare Morris of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The researchers "observed a protective benefit from just one serving per day of ," which are known to be rich in vitamin K, added Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center.

Morris was scheduled to present her team's findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The study cannot actually prove that leafy greens preserve clarity of thinking.

But another expert, Dr. Yvette Sheline, said the finding is both "interesting and in some ways surprising."

"It makes sense that would have an effect on mental health," said Sheline, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

"We know generally that what you eat, or don't eat, can affect your risk for and vascular disease, which can both then worsen the course of dementia," she said.

But exactly how leafy greens may alter dementia risk remains a mystery, Sheline said.

"But while it's still being worked out, I'd say go to your local grocery and pick up some kale. There's certainly no harm done," she added.

For the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers focused on 954 men and women enrolled in Rush's Memory and Aging Project. Participants were 81 on average at the start, and three-quarters were women.

Every year for almost five years on average, participants completed a 144-item food and beverage questionnaire and underwent 19 mental skill tests.

In the end, each individual's nutrient intake was calculated based on the type and quantity of food consumed on a daily basis.

The team determined that those who routinely consumed one or two servings of leafy greens every day demonstrated the mental capacity of someone more than a decade younger, compared with those who never ate leafy greens.

The findings held up even after accounting for gender, age, education, smoking history, exercise, and any heightened Alzheimer's risk (such as a family history).

Might vitamin K supplements work as well?

Morris took a cautionary stance, noting that the study focused solely on food sources of vitamin K. She also suggested that the benefit found in food sources might ultimately be associated with a constellation of nutrients found alongside vitamin K, rather than vitamin K alone.

"It is very difficult to tease apart the specific association of K from other nutrients," she said. Leafy greens also contain beneficial lutein, folate and beta-carotene, Morris added.

If you're not a fan of kale and spinach, such nutrients can also be found in a range of bright fruits and vegetables, the researchers pointed out.

Explore further: Helping Pacific islanders eat more "greens"

More information: For tips on preventing Alzheimer's disease, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Related Stories

Helping Pacific islanders eat more "greens"

November 3, 2014
University of Adelaide research is helping indigenous Pacific Island and Torres Strait Islander people eat more "greens" to improve their diet and help combat disease.

New MIND diet may significantly protect against Alzheimer's disease

March 17, 2015
A new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, even if the diet is not meticulously followed, according to a paper published online for subscribers ...

Overweight children who eat vegetables are healthier, research finds

October 28, 2014
Getting children who are overweight to regularly eat even just a helping or two of the right vegetables each day could improve their health in critical ways, a new study in the November edition of the Journal of the Academy ...

Higher folate diet may reduce migraine frequency

February 16, 2015
Eating more folate, found in various green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may reduce migraine frequency, a QUT research team has found.

Leafy greens reduce aggressive behaviour in adolescents

December 1, 2014
High magnesium intake has been associated with reduced aggressive behaviour in WA adolescents, highlighting the importance of a magnesium-rich diet in emotional and behavioural health.

Study says leafy greens top food poisoning source

January 29, 2013
(AP)—A government study has fingered leafy green vegetables as the leading source of food poisoning illnesses.

Recommended for you

First ever meta-analysis on Indian lead exposure reveals link to devastating intellectual disability in children

October 12, 2018
New Macquarie University research has revealed the devastating disease burden associated with elevated blood lead levels in India. The results of the first ever meta-analysis of Indian blood lead levels found the burden of ...

The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

October 12, 2018
If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice.

Sit-stand office desks cut daily sitting time and appear to boost job performance

October 11, 2018
Sit-stand workstations that allow employees to stand, as well as sit, while working on a computer reduce daily sitting time and appear to have a positive impact on job performance and psychological health, finds a trial published ...

Molecular link between body weight, early puberty identified

October 11, 2018
Becoming overweight at a young age can trigger a molecular chain reaction that leads some girls to experience puberty early, according to new research published in Nature Communications.

Hearing and visual aids linked to slower age-related memory loss

October 11, 2018
Hearing aids and cataract surgery are strongly linked to a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline, according to new research by University of Manchester academics.

Hundreds of patients with undiagnosed diseases find answers, study reports

October 10, 2018
More than 100 patients afflicted by mysterious illnesses have been diagnosed through a network of detective-doctors who investigate unidentified diseases, reports a study conducted by scientists at the Stanford University ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fey5
not rated yet Mar 31, 2015
I hope so because I love consuming my daily bunch of collard greens.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.