Dementia is a highly destabilising condition that has many different causes but some common symptoms. Memory loss and slower thinking speed are common warning signs. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia but research has suggested you can reduce your risk by bolstering the brain’s defences.
A new research review published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience has found that eating citrus fruits and drinking their juices can boost brain health, particularly during ageing.
Scientists attribute the effect to polyphenols – called flavonoids – which occur naturally in oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit.
To explore the association, scientists based at the University of East Anglia in Norwich collated hundreds of studies that looked at the impact of citrus flavonoids on brain cells and nerves, as well as 10 studies in human populations.
The results showed that citrus polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties – both important for protecting brain tissues from damage, for example, due to ageing or underlying health conditions.
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Damage to brain and nerve cells is one of the earliest signs of degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline.
Author, Dr David Vauzour, a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwich Medical School commented: “The human studies carried out so far suggest that eating citrus fruits improves cognitive performance and reduces the risk of degenerative brain diseases.
“We see similar effects for whole fruits and 100 percent juices, and effectiveness in both healthy people and those with existing neurological conditions.
“In addition, studies on animals have shown that supplementing the diet with citrus fruits improves deficits in learning and memory, particularly spatial memory – which helps us to remember where we’ve put things – and recognition memory – which is vital for facial and name recall”.
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Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Fruit Juice Science Centre, added: “Citrus fruits and their juices are a rich source of vitamin C and contain flavonoids such as hesperidin.
“These are well-known to have positive effects on the vascular system and blood pressure, so it is interesting that the benefits extend to the brain. It provides another reason to enjoy a daily glass of orange juice”.
Other key tips to reduce your risk
Encouraging evidence suggests regular exercise can reduce your risk of dementia.
It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing,” explains the Alzheimer’s Society (AS).
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), you should limit your intake of:
- Fried or fast food (less than once a week)
- Cheese (less than once a week)
- Red meats (less than four times a week)
- Pastries and sweets (less than five times a week)
- Butter (less than one tablespoon a day).
The above foods contain saturated fat, which clog up your arteries and raise your risk of heart disease.
According to the BHF, the ‘western’ diet (high in saturated fat, red meat and refined carbohydrates, and low in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains) has been linked to faster mental deterioration.