Flavonoids and Dementia: Plants Help Save Our Brains!
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) devastate millions of people, in the US and worldwide, and their incidence is predicted to nearly triple within the next few decades. Few chronic illnesses are more dreaded, or less treatable, than the slow decline and destruction of memory, thinking, and nerve function that come with these conditions.
A recent epidemiological study of 2,800 people, ages 50 and up, led by Tufts University scientists and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, focused on the intake of flavonoid-rich foods among older adults over a 20-year period, and how that factor correlates with the incidence of ADRD.
Quoting from the study, “Flavonoids are naturally occurring bioactive pigments found widely in plant-based foods… Common sources of flavonoids include anthocyanin-rich berries and red wine, flavanone-rich citrus fruits and juices, flavan-3-ol-rich teas and dark chocolate, flavone-rich parsley and celery, flavonol-rich onions and apples, and isoflavone-rich soy products.”
What did the scientists discover in this careful study? The group of individuals with the highest intake of flavonoid compounds, based on the study protocols, experienced two to four times less ADRD than the group consuming the lowest amount of these phytochemicals.
What makes this study particularly stand out is its duration, Many researchers have reported clear short-term benefits from a variety of plant foods and herbal medicines for preserving or enhancing cognitive function, but this one takes a longer view of ultimate outcomes—appropriate for a disease that typically progresses over many years.
Of course, preventing dementia is just one benefit among so many that are associated with dietary flavonoids! Flavonoid compounds offer us antioxidant activity that helps to modulate inflammation throughout the body, reducing risks from cancer, infections, diabetes, aging, etc. In fact, controlling inflammation is now understood as the indispensable key to better health and longer life.
Medicinal herbs are naturally rich sources of phytochemicals, of course, and a great many of them are known to contain health-preserving flavonoid compounds. A regular intake of herbs can greatly bolster the protection afforded by a well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of plant foods. While some herbs are best used as targeted, short-term treatments for specific problems, most are safe for regular or frequent consumption.
Now think about that over a nice cup of herbal (or green or black) tea!
Here’s an incomplete list of some of our herbs with significant flavonoid content:
Rosebuds and Rosehips
White Oak Bark
Spearmint and Peppermint
Elder Flowers and Berries
Horse Chestnut Seeds
Hawthorn Berries, Flowers, and Leaves
Lapsang Souchang Tea
Sencha Green Tea
Jasmine Pearls Green Tea