Anti-inflammatory diet full of fruit and veggies may help protect brain health

Eating a diet that emphasizes foods with anti-inflammatory properties may help protect brain health, according to a new study, potentially reducing one's risk of dementia later in life. The research comes from the American Academy of Neurology, revealing that certain foods — including fruits and vegetables — may support brain health by reducing inflammation.

Foods consumed on a regular basis play a big role in one's overall health. Eating a diet high in red and processed meats, alcohol, and sugar, for example, has been linked with issues like inflammation and heart disease, while plant-based diets that focus on healthy oils and foods have been found to reduce the risk of stroke and certain other conditions.

Though these studies often focus on conditions like stroke, heart attack, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, a body of research has also provided evidence that diet also has a role in supporting brain health — and that poor diets may have a noticeable impact on cognition over time.

This latest study from the American Academy of Neurology links the consumption of an anti-inflammatory diet with a decrease in dementia risk later in life. The findings were based on an analysis of data from 1,059 older adults in Greece; these participants didn't have dementia when the study started, but 6-percent of them developed the condition over the next few years.

Using a scale to give each participant an inflammatory diet score, the researchers separated the individuals into three groups. The participants who fell in the highest inflammatory diet group were three times as likely as those in the lowest group to develop dementia. As well, the participants who were in the lowest inflammatory diet score group had the greatest consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes like beans, and tea/coffee compared to those in the highest group.

The inflammatory score ranged from -8.87 to 7.98, with the higher numbers referring to more inflammation-promoting diets and the lower numbers referring to more anti-inflammatory diets. According to the researchers, each 1-point increase on this scale is correlated with a 21-percent jump in dementia risk. It is important to note, however, that this is an observational study, meaning it only demonstrates a link between diet and dementia risk.