How flavonols put the brakes on memory decline

The antioxidants known as flavonols are might health powerhouses.

Flavonols (also spelled flavanols) are a type of flavonoid, a group of phytochemicals found in plant pigments.

And unlike most things that are good for you, they’re found in foods that taste good — like fruits (especially berries) and vegetables as well as cocoa and certain beverages like tea and wine.

Studies have shown that a diet rich in flavonols is great for your circulatory health. Flavonols can help lower your blood pressure, prevent calcified arteries, improve blood vessel function and get more oxygen to your brain.

Flavonols also may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, increase fat burning and improve visual acuity.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? But that’s not all flavonols can do….

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Flavonols slow memory decline

What’s considered normal memory decline with age is not as disruptive as Alzheimer’s or dementia. But still, who wouldn’t like to maintain strong mental faculties as long as possible? Flavonols may be the answer.

One study looked at individuals with an average age of 81 who did not have dementia and gave them annual cognitive and memory tests. These participants also filled out a questionnaire each year on how often they ate certain foods as well as how much time they spent doing physical activities and mentally engaging activities, like reading and playing games. The participants were followed for an average of seven years.

Based on their food surveys, the participants were divided into five equal groups according to the amount of flavonols in their diet. The lowest flavonol group had an intake of about 5 mg per day. The highest group consumed an average of 15 mg in flavonols per day — the equivalent of about one cup of dark leafy greens.

Together they had an average dietary intake of 10 mg per day in total flavonols. Just for comparison, the average amount of flavonol among U.S. adults is about 16 to 20 mg per day.

What did the study find? Those who consume more flavonols may have a slower rate of memory decline.

Using an overall global cognition score and adjusting for other factors like age that could affect the rate of memory decline, researchers determined that the cognitive score of people who had the highest intake of flavonols declined at a rate of 0.4 units per decade more slowly than people who had the lowest intake.

Study author Dr. Thomas M. Holland of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago attributes these measurements to the inherent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flavonols.

“It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline,” Holland says. “Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in maintaining their brain health.”

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You need specific types of flavonols

It’s easy to get flavonols from your diet. But if you want better brain health, you need to get the right kinds of flavonols.

The study noted above found the flavonol with the best memory score was kaempferol. Kaempferol slowed cognitive decline at a rate of 0.4 units per decade, compared with 0.3 units per decade for the flavonol myricetin and 0.2 units per decade for the flavonol quercetin. The fourth flavonol measured in the study, isorhamnetin, was not tied to global cognition.

Kaempferol is found mainly in the dark leafy greens like kale and spinach as well as beans, broccoli and tea. Kale and tea are also great sources of quercetin and myricetin, which means they may give a sort of super-boost to your cognitive health.

It’s pretty easy to add a cup of tea to your morning routine or a cup of kale to your dinner plate — and it may make a huge difference for your brain.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!


Study: Antioxidant Flavonols Linked To Slower Memory Decline — American Academy of Neurology

Association of Dietary Intake of Flavonols With Changes in Global Cognition and Several Cognitive Abilities — Neurology

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.