Five A Day’ Keep Dementia Away, Say Researchers

Having at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily might help prevent dementia in older adults according to a study published today in Age & Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, followed the cognitive status of 17,700 dementia-free older adults for 6 years. The objective was to investigate whether those consuming at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits daily, in line with the World Health Organisation recommendation, were at a lower risk of developing dementia.

Researchers found that inadequate fruit consumption was associated with a higher risk of dementia, even after taking into account other relevant factors such as age, education, major chronic diseases, and health-related behaviours such as smoking. The findings suggest that not only could fruits independently reduce dementia risk, but the addition of 3 servings of vegetables to a person’s daily diet further reduced this risk.

It was speculated that one reason why fruits and vegetables might help reduce the risk of dementia is because they are rich sources of nutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin E, flavonoids, and beta-carotenoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As oxidative stress and inflammation are thought to be involved in the development and progression of dementia, with animal studies showing that deficiency of these bioactive compounds could aggravate the dementia pathologies, not eating enough vegetables or fruits might decrease resilience against the neurodegenerative processes.

Researchers concluded that, in addition to general health benefits, consuming 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily might also help prevent dementia in late life.

Linda Lam, Chairperson and Professor of the Department of Psychiatry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the corresponding author of the Age & Ageing paper, said:

“The findings of our study not only highlight the importance of consuming both fruits and vegetables in dementia prevention among older people, but also provide some insight into the daily amount of fruits and vegetables required for cognitive maintenance. As a public health promotion strategy, the need for a balanced diet on cognitive health should be duly emphasized in the older population.”

The Age & Ageing paper can be viewed here: