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Shereen Jegtvig, MS

Vegetables and Cognitive Function

By October 24, 2006

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A study being published in the current journal of Neurology shows a correlation between eating vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, and a slowing down of the loss of memory in older adults. The study included 3,718 residents in Chicago, Illinois, who were age 65 and older. The participants were asked to keep track of the foods they ate and were given at least two cognitive tests during the six year study.

"Compared to people who consumed less than one serving of vegetables a day, people who ate at least 2.8 servings of vegetables a day saw their rate of cognitive change slow by roughly 40 percent," said study author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "This decrease is equivalent to about five years of younger age."

Insterestingly, the study did not find the same correlation with fruit. Apparently, the amount of fruits that the participants ate during the study had no effect on changes in memory.

"This was unanticipated and raises several questions," said Morris. "It may be due to vegetables containing high amounts of vitamin E, which helps lower the risk of cognitive decline. Vegetables, but not fruits, are also typically consumed with added fats such as salad dressings, and fats increase the absorption of vitamin E. Still, further study is required to understand why fruit is not associated with cognitive change."

Studies like this one allow researchers to look for correlations, but this type of study doesn't always make it easy to explain the results. Maybe the correlation was due to vitamin E, or the oils on the vegetables. Maybe people with better cognitive function are more likely to put more thought into eating their vegetables in order to stay healthy. Hopefully we will soon see more research about vegetables, vitamin E, healthy fats and brain function. Read about the vegetable study.

Poll: What is your favorite vegetable?

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