NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 25, 2006

New research has found that eating vegetables appears to help keep the brain young and may slow the mental decline sometimes associated with growing old.

On measures of mental sharpness, older people who ate more than two servings of vegetables daily appeared about five years younger at the end of a six-year study than those who ate few or no vegetables.  Eating fruit did not have the same effect.

  • The research, in almost 2,000 Chicago-area men and women, does not prove that vegetables reduce mental decline, but it adds to mounting evidence pointing in that direction; the findings also echo research conducted only on women.
  • Green, leafy vegetables including spinach, kale and collards appeared to be the most beneficial; the researchers said that might be because they contain healthy amounts of Vitamin E, an antioxidant believed to help fight chemicals produced by the body that can damage cells.

Vegetables generally contain more Vitamin E than fruits, which were not linked with slowed mental decline in the study.  Vegetables also are often eaten with healthy fats such as salad oils, which help the body absorb Vitamin E and other antioxidants, said lead author Martha Clare Morris, a researcher at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.

Overall, people did gradually worse on these tests over time, but those who ate more than two vegetable servings a day had about 40 percent less mental decline than those who ate few or no vegetables.  Their test results resembled what would be expected in people about five years younger, Morris said.

Source: Lindsey Tanner, "Veggies keep brain younger, study says; Green, leafy foods appear to be the most beneficial because they have a lot of Vitamin E," Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer, October 24, 2006; based upon: M. C. Morris et al., "Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change," Neurology, Volume 67, Issue 8, October 24, 2006.

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