A plant pigment found in foods including kale, beans, tea, wine, spinach and broccoli has been linked to brain health and protection against mental decline.

Research has shown that people who consume more foods and drink containing antioxidant flavonols had slower cognitive decline.

Beneficial foods include apples, oranges, pears, tomatoes, olive oil and tomato sauce.

Study author Dr Thomas M. Holland, from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said: “It’s exciting that our study shows making specific diet choices may lead to a slower rate of cognitive decline.

“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.”

The 961 participants, who had an average age of 81 and were followed for an average of seven years, completed yearly questionnaires on how regularly they ate certain types of food.

In addition, they were tasked with completing a series of cognitive and memory challenges and also provided information on their level of education, exercise and how long they spent on mentally stimulating activities such as reading.

Among American adults, the average amount of flavonols consumed is 16 to 20 milligrams a day. The study found that participants had an average daily intake of 10 mg per day, with the lowest consuming 5mg a day while the intake of the highest was 15mg a day – equivalent to roughly a cup of leafy dark greens.

From the mental tests, the research found that the study participants who consumed the most amount of flavonols saw their cognitive score decline at a rate of 0.4 units per decade more slowly than the participants who consumed the lowest amount.

From the findings, Dr Holland said that this relationship could be down to flavonol’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The study has been published in the journal Neurology

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