A study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that high intakes of flavonoids — chemical metabolites that give plant foods their color — may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The benefits of flavonoids on reducing dementia risk may be associated with the ability of these chemicals to reduce the volume of white matter hyperintensities volume, according to the study researchers.
Can Flavonoids Reduce Dementia Risk? Study Suggests So
Flavonoids, a diverse group of plant metabolites found in tea, red grapes, blueberries, cocoa, and darkly colored vegetables. These naturally occurring plant pigments contain potential free radical scavenging abilities.
Their antioxidant and neuroprotective capabilities were put to the test in a recent study which explored the association between the intake of dietary flavonoids and measures of total brain tissue volume (TBV), white matter hyperintensities volume (WMHV), and hippocampal volume (HV). The study was an analysis of 2086 participants from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort (mean age at exam 7, 60.6 years).
Dietary Flavonoid Intake Associated with Decreased WMHV
In an analysis adjusted for demographics, lifestyle, and clinical factors, the mean WMHV values of participants in the highest intake quartile of flavan-3-ols (0.56; 95% CI, 0.52-0.61) and flavonoid polymers (0.57; 95% CI, 0.52-0.61) were significantly lower compared to participants in the lowest quartile intake categories of flavan-3-ols (0.65; 95% CI, 0.60-0.71) and flavonoid polymers (0.66; 95% CI, 0.60-0.71) (p=0.01).
The researchers reported an inverse association between WMHV and intake of flavan-3-ols (p=0.01), flavonoid polymers (p=0.01), and total flavonoids (P = 0.01). This finding was not replicated for measures of TBV or HV, which suggests that the intake of flavonoids may be associated with “unique white matter neuroprotective effects that are independent of general measures of brain atrophy,” the researchers wrote.
Shishtar E, Rogers GT, Blumberg JB, et al. Flavonoid Intake and MRI Markers of Brain Health in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. J Nutr. 2020 Mar 25. pii: nxaa068. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa068.