Morris MC, et al. Neurology. 2017;doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815.

December 20, 2017
2 min read

Eating leafy greens may slow cognitive decline


Morris MC, et al. Neurology. 2017;doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815.

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Martha Clare Morris

Findings published in Neurology demonstrate that consuming at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline.

“Decline in cognitive abilities, the central feature of dementia, is one of the more feared conditions of aging,” Martha Clare Morris, ScD, from the department of internal medicine at Rush University, and colleagues wrote. “The identification of effective prevention strategies for dementia is critical to staving off a public health crisis and for meeting demand for this kind of information, particularly around diet.”

Prior research has demonstrated that green leafy vegetables have protective associations against cognitive decline. In the current prospective study, researchers examined the relationship between cognitive decline and the primary nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables, such as vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, -carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol and -tocopherol.

They assessed 960 participants without dementia aged 58 to 99 years enrolled in the Memory and Aging Project who completed a food frequency questionnaire and had two or more cognitive assessments over an average of 4.7 years. Specifically, the questionnaire asked how often and how many servings people ate of spinach, kale/collards/greens and lettuce salad, then researchers divided the participants into five equal groups based on how often they ate these vegetables.

Consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline. For those who ate one to two servings of leafy greens daily, the rate of decline was slower by 0.05 standardized units per year (P = .0001), the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age, compared with those who rarely or never ate green leafy vegetables.

“Green leafy vegetables are packed with brain healthy nutrients,” Morris told Healio Psychiatry. “In this study, as little as one daily serving of leafy greens was associated with significant slowing in cognitive abilities.”

Excluding -carotene, higher intakes of each of the nutrients and bioactives were individually associated with slower cognitive decline. Adjusted model results showed that the rates for the highest compared with the lowest quintiles of intake were = 0.02, P = .002 for phylloquinone; = 0.04, P = .002 for lutein; = 0.05, P < .001 for folate; = 0.03, P = .02 for -tocopherol; = 0.04, P = .002 for nitrate; = 0.04, P = .003 for kaempferol; and = 0.02, P = .08 for -carotene. The results remained valid after adjusting for age, sex, education, participation in cognitive activities, physical activities, smoking, and seafood and alcohol consumption.

Consumption of green leafy vegetables may help to slow decline in cognitive abilities with older age, perhaps due to the neuroprotective actions of lutein, folate, -carotene, and phylloquinone,” Moris and colleagues wrote. “The addition of a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to one’s diet may be a simple way to contribute to brain health.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure : The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.