Individuals with a high intake of tea, berries and apples are less at risk of developing cognitive complications, new research indicates.

Following a diet high in flavanols has been found to prevent cognitive decline later in life, academics have said.

Older people can improve their mental ability by consuming 500mg of flavanols every day, the study has reported.

Senior author, Professor Scott Small said: “The findings formed part of a growing body of research that is starting to reveal that different nutrients are needed to fortify our ageing minds.”

More than 3,500 adults aged roughly 71 years old took part in the study by either taking a daily 500mg flavanol supplement or a dummy pill for three years.

According to the results, the adults taking a flavanol supplement had a better memory than those taking a dummy pill.

Professor Aedin Cassidy said “It was a really important study, especially since the dose required for brain health improvement was readily achievable.

“For example, one mug of tea, six squares of dark chocolate, a couple of servings of berries and apples would together provide about 500mg of flavanols.”

Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, said: “The large and rigorously conducted research added to previous evidence showing the importance of diet as a factor supporting cognitive health in later life. Further studies were probably needed to explore the benefits of flavanol supplements in depth.”

However, Professor David Curtis said: “The study fails to provide evidence that increasing flavanol intake is beneficial and there is no need for anybody to contemplate changing their diet in the light of its findings.”

Carl Hodgetts, senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “Research into the relationship between nutrition and the brain could help with the fight against dementia.”

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