We know that a daily menu that is high in antioxidants provides us with protection against free radical damage and oxidative stress. These are two factors that can increase the risk of many chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging.
Do antioxidants help dementia? A new Western study found that older people with higher levels of antioxidants, especially the types lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, have increased protection against developing dementia, which is one form of cognitive decline.
Dementia is the general term for cognitive decline that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only type.
Both dementia and Alzheimer's usually result in memory loss, language difficulties, problems coping with everyday situations, and more. Results of a May 2022 study published in the journal Neurology show that higher levels of antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Study data shows that when adults consume more foods containing antioxidants, they are less likely to develop dementia as they age. Specific antioxidants that have been found to protect against cognitive decline include lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Which foods contain these antioxidants in greater amounts?
We can add to our menu leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce and the like, broccoli, peas, citrus, papaya, berries. The study involved more than 7,200 people who were over the age of 45 when it began.All participants were tested for levels of vitamins A, C and E and carotenoids at the start of the study. For 16 years, researchers followed who developed dementia and who did not, and then compared the differences in eating patterns.
The findings of the study were that adults who had the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood at the start of the study were less likely to develop dementia than those with lower levels. The more lutein and zeaxanthin in someone's blood, the better that person was protected from dementia years later, scientists believe.
Higher blood levels of beta-cryptoxanthin have also been found to protect against dementia, but it is also known to reduce the risk of cancer and protect cells from aging.
How do antioxidants affect the brain?
Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that are produced during the oxidation process during normal metabolic function.
To some extent, free radical damage is inevitable, but certain factors such as our lifestyle – smoking, alcohol consumption, radiation and environmental toxins can exacerbate this damage. Free radicals contribute to some chronic and degenerative diseases.
Foods that provide us with antioxidants can help protect the brain from free radical damage and oxidative stress, which can lead to cellular damage in the brain. Therefore, foods high in antioxidants are thought to naturally buffer brain cells from changes that contribute to cognitive decline, the researchers believe.
How to increase our intake of antioxidants?
The best way to get more protective antioxidants is to eat a variety of he althy foods, such as (in addition to the above) cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peppers, mushrooms, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, squash, kiwi, mango, pineapple, nettle, basil, turmeric, ginger, parsley, fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds, probiotic foods, eggs.