By Kolette Lim
Individuals who consume a wide variety and substantial quantity of fruits and vegetables during their midlife are less likely to suffer cognitive impairment in their later years, a study has found.
The study, led by Dr. Koh Woon Puay, Professor of the Healthy Longevity Translational Research Program at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, also found that increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed also reduced the risk of cognitive decline, independent of their quantity.
“It is not enough to just eat more, increasing the variety in the consumption of fruits and vegetables is also important in improving health,” Dr. Koh said.
The study, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in March, is the first known study to examine a variety of fruits and vegetables independent of quantity intake.
A total of 14 fruits and 25 vegetables were identified as commonly eaten foods and included in the study. Twenty years after the study, a follow-up interview was conducted to measure their cognitive function, with 16,737 participants making up the final study population.
The study observed that participants who consumed an average of 10 types of fruit a month were 22 percent less likely to be cognitively impaired as compared with those who consumed four types. Participants who consumed 22 types of vegetables monthly had a 13 percent lower risk as compared with those who consumed an average of 13 types.
Fruits were further categorized according to their glycemic index. Those with a low glycemic index cause a slower rise in blood sugar as compared with those with a higher index. Vegetable categories included light green vegetables, dark green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, yellow vegetables, tomato products, and mushrooms.
The research found that consumption of fruits with a low glycemic index such as apples and peaches, and vegetables from the mushroom, and light green vegetables categories were associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline.
The findings were consistent with other studies conducted in Europe, the United States, and Japan, which similarly concluded that higher quantities of fruit and vegetable intake were associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment in later stages of life, added Dr. Koh.