Will a Salad a Day Keep Memory Problems Away? - Alzheimer's Society comments

New research suggests that eating one or two servings per day of green, leafy vegetables may slow down the memory and thinking decline associated with ageing.

Researchers surveyed 960 people with an average age of 81 who had not been diagnosed with any form of dementia. The participants were asked about how often they ate certain foods. Their thinking and memory skills were then tested yearly, over a course of 4.7 years.

Participants were divided into groups based on their consumption of green, leafy vegetables. The group which ate the most servings averaged 1.3 servings per day, while the group with the fewest servings ate on average 0.1 servings per day.

Overall, the participants' scores on the thinking and memory tests declined over time at a rate of 0.08 standardized units per year.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the rate of decline for those who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardized units per year than the rate for those who ate the least leafy greens. This difference was equivalent to being 11 years younger in age. 

Commenting on the research, Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: 

'It’s no secret that eating vegetables is good for your health. This study found eating food rich in vitamin K – like spinach, kale, asparagus and everyone’s favourite, Brussels sprouts – appears to slow cognitive decline as people age. 

'The researchers did not directly look at dementia, so we cannot say that it would delay or prevent  the onset of the condition. However, older people who ate one or two servings of vitamin K rich food per day performed better on memory tests than those who didn’t. In fact, their scores were similar to those of people 11 years younger, irrespective of other factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and education level.

'What’s good for the heart is good for the head. A healthy diet rich in essential nutrients, combined with regular exercise and avoiding smoking, can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia. So make sure your Christmas dinner is piled high with greens this year!'