Scientific study shows how anthocyanin-rich foods like Haskapa could protect against risk.
10 minute read
A daily teaspoon of Haskapa freeze-dried berry powder contains over 50mg of anthocyanins. According to this study, this could help to significantly reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD).
The new study1 was recently published by scientists from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Massachusetts. It shows that older adults who regularly ate higher amounts of anthocyanin-rich foods (such as berries) had a significant four-fold reduction in developing ADRD.
Many clinical studies have looked at the association between anthocyanin intake and cognition over the short term. This study focused on the role of dietary anthocyanins and the risk of developing ADRD over a 20-year period.
According to the World Health Organisation2, around 50 million people are currently living with dementia, which is now considered a significant cause of worldwide disability. Identifying and modifying risk factors for developing ADRD, including diet, is extremely important, particularly in the absence of effective drug treatments for dementia.
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to modify your diet to reduce your risk of developing ADRD. Haskapa can help you achieve this.
The research in detail
The research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 2,800 adults aged over 50 for twenty years. The participants were part of the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term study exploring cardiovascular and other disease risk factors in residents of the city of Framingham, Massachusetts.
The researchers examined the long-term relationship between eating flavonoid-rich foods and the risks of developing ADRD.
Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables, associated with a range of health benefits and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The researchers looked at six main flavonoid subclasses consumed in the American diet, including anthocyanins (found in berries and red wine), flavonols (in apples and pears), and flavonoid polymers (in tea). The study participants filled in detailed food frequency questionnaires completed as part of 4 yearly medical assessments.
The researchers analysed the long-term intake of these six flavonoid subclasses and the number of ADRD diagnoses in the study participants. They found that lower consumption (15th percentile or lower) of three of the flavonoid subclasses was linked to a higher risk of dementia than the highest intake (greater than 60th percentile).
The most striking results were associated with anthocyanins. Low intake of anthocyanins (no berries per month) was associated with a four-fold risk of developing ADRD, compared to those with the highest anthocyanin intake (equivalent to 7.5 cups of berries per month or 16.4mg anthocyanins per day).
Low intake of flavonols (one and a half apples per month) and flavonoid polymers (no cups of tea) were each associated with twice the risk of developing ADRD compared to the highest intakes (8 apples and pears or 19 cups of tea per month).
The same pattern of associations was specifically seen with Alzheimer's disease for flavonols and anthocyanins but not for flavonoid polymers.
It is thought flavonoids exert their beneficial neuroprotective effects by a combination of actions. These include protecting our brain cells from neurotoxins, combating neuroinflammation, improving brain blood flow, and also via their antioxidant activity.
What this means for you
The study concludes that higher long-term dietary intakes of flavonoids are associated with lower risks of ADRD in American adults. Anthocyanins were associated with the most significant risk reduction.
“Tea, specifically green tea, and berries are good sources of flavonoids,” said first author Dr. Esra Shishtar. "When we look at the study results, we see that the people who may benefit the most from consuming more flavonoids are at the lowest levels of intake, and it doesn’t take much to improve levels. A cup of tea a day or some berries two or three times a week would be adequate.”
One of the leading researchers, Dr. Paul Jacques, says that the good news is that 50 years old is not too late to make positive dietary changes.
“The risk of dementia really starts to increase over age 70, and the take-home message is, when you are approaching 50 or just beyond, you should start thinking about a healthier diet if you haven't already," he said.
So, increasing your flavonoid intake and, in particular, your anthocyanin intake seems a sensible step.
- Paul F Jacques, Rhoda Au, Jeffrey B Blumberg, Gail T Rogers, Esra Shishtar. Long-term dietary flavonoid intake and risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 1093/ajcn/nqaa079
- Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia: WHO guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2019. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.