Eating an ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet of fruit, vegetables, tea and coffee could cut the chances of getting dementia by a third.
A cup of tea, a morning coffee and fruit, vegetables and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, all contain healthy plant compounds.
These help combat age-related inflammation in the body which can increase the risk of dementia.
A study rated the diet of more than 1,000 older people for anti-inflammatory foods and tracked them over an average of three years.
Those with the most anti-inflammatory diet consumed around 20 pieces of fruit, 19 servings of vegetables, four servings of legumes and 11 cups of coffee or tea in the average week.
Compared to this group, those with the least anti-inflammatory diet were three times more likely to get dementia.
Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, senior author of the study from Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, said: ‘These findings suggest that people could protect their brains by eating more healthily.
A study rated the diet of more than 1,000 older people for anti-inflammatory foods and tracked them over an average of three years. Those with the most anti-inflammatory diet consumed around 20 pieces of fruit, 19 servings of vegetables, four servings of legumes and 11 cups of coffee or tea in the average week. Compared to this group, those with the least anti-inflammatory diet were three times more likely to get dementia
‘As people can change their diets, they might want to think about eating anti-inflammatory foods like fruit and vegetables and avoiding more inflammatory choices like very high-calorie foods.
‘But more research is needed before specific dietary advice can be given, as this was not a clinical trial providing clear proof.’
The study, published in the journal Neurology, analysed the diets of people aged 65 and over, based on questionnaires they filled out on what they had eaten in the past month.
These foods included fruit and vegetables, dairy products, meat, fish, desserts, alcohol, and legumes, which include beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils.
Among the 1,059 study participants, 62 people, or six per cent, developed dementia.
To work out who was more likely to get it, researchers split people into three groups based on their answers from the food questionnaires.
These comprised the third of people with the most anti-inflammatory diet, those with a medium diet and the third with the least anti-inflammatory diet.
Those with the least anti-inflammatory eating habits, who were three times more likely to develop dementia, ate only around nine pieces of fruit, 10 servings of vegetables, two servings of legumes and nine cups of coffee or tea during an average week.
The questionnaires were used to work out scores for people’s nutrient intake, which ranged from minus 8.87 for the most anti-inflammatory diet to 7.98 for the least.
Higher scores indicated a worse diet, and the findings showed people who developed dementia had a score 0.64 points higher than people who did not.
The study authors took into account people’s age, as dementia is more likely in later years, their sex, as women are at a greater risk, and their education levels, as more highly educated people are less likely to get dementia.
Even after accounting for these, however, every one-point increase in the inflammatory score of someone’s diet was associated with a 21 per cent rise in their risk of dementia.
Some previous studies have found people with a more inflammatory diet have a poorer memory and develop cognitive decline at a younger age.