Eating More Leafy Greens May Help Keep Alzheimer's at Bay

A significant study showed more spinach and kale in your diet may help slow cognitive decline.

Alzheimer's disease doesn't get the attention it deserves, although the thought of it terrifies many of us. One reason for this is that it happens to those at the end of their lives — out of sight, out of mind — but people don't realize how much the disease affects the families of the individual diagnosed (until it's already happened). If you fear losing your sense of self toward the second half of your life, Martha Clare Morris from Rush University Medical Center and leader of a recent study, says to eat more leafy greens.

She empathized in a press release:

"Losing one's memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older. Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer's disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green, leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and noninvasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and dementia."

Morris and her team came to this recommendation after following over 950 older adults for five years. Over the course of that time, they noticed a significant decrease in cognitive decline among participants who consumed greater amounts of leafy greens. Those who ate one to two servings a day showed brain functions of someone who was 11 years younger.

The researchers contribute this boost in cognition to vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene found in greens, like spinach and kale. They believe these nutrients were helping to sustain the participants' brain functions.

Morris noted:

"No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein."

Though, other studies have already linked folate and beta-carotene to slowing cognitive decline.

Francois Nader, president and CEO of NPS Pharmaceuticals, has an optimistic outlook when it comes to the future of medicine. In the coming decades, he believes pharmaceutical research will be able help snuff out Alzheimer's disease:

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Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
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