Antioxidants and Brain Health

Do what you can to reduce your chance of getting dementia. Get at least 7 hours of sleep, do puzzles, read more and new research is suggesting what you have always known, you need to eat fruit and vegetables to keep your brain and body healthy. They contain powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

The compounds are called carotenoids and are found in red, orange, yellow and dark green fruits and vegetables.  Think of fall vegetables: pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, carrots, swiss chard– not only are these foods delicious but they also can help slow cognitive decline!

Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

AD impacts hundreds of thousands of Canadians every year and there is still no known cure. In a recent cohort study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 927 participants were tracked for 7 years. The results showed that consuming higher levels of carotenoids reduced the rate of AD incidence by 48%. These results are particularly seen with high consumption of lutein-zeaxanthin and β-carotene.

Antioxidants = “anti – against   oxidants – think rust” – Antioxidants help your brain avoid rust!

These compounds protect the brain through their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As the brain ages it experiences oxidative stress, simply put, starts getting rusty! The production of reactive oxygen species is inevitable but some compounds like carotenoids can stabilize these harmful molecules. For this reason, foods with anti-oxidant properties are crucial for maintaining health in an aging body.

So, just how much carotenoids should you consume to reap the benefits?

The participants in this study consumed 24.8 mg/day. This number ranges, but one medium sized carrot contains approximately 5 mg of β-carotene. This means around 5 carrots a day would do the trick. However, eating a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables would be more effective and perhaps more enjoyable. While consuming a colorful diet is the safest route to increase carotenoid levels, there also supplements available. It is best to talk to a healthcare practitioner before you begin taking these supplements.

If you take one thing away from this blog post, please let it be something you have heard many times before… EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!

Written by: Emily Kalbfleisch, 4th year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Guelph

Article Reference:

Yuan, C., Chen, H., Wang, Y., Schneider, J. A., Willett, W. C., & Morris, M. C. (2020). Dietary carotenoids related to risk of incident alzheimer dementia (AD) and Brain Ad Neuropathology: A community-based cohort of older adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 113(1), 200–208.



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