The study shows that a longer meal time did not lead to children eating more bread, cold cuts, and desserts. Making the fruits and vegetables bite-sized also made for easier consumption. (credit photo from Pexels)

  • New research shows that men who consume only two servings of produce each day were more prone to battling memory or thinking problems.
  • Older men who drink a glass of orange juice every day also report fewer issues when it came to executive functioning.

BOSTON — We all know eating fruits and vegetables every day helps ensure a healthy heart. But they also may be essential for a strong brain too. A recent study found that men, in particular, who consume six servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit daily experience less memory loss over time.

Researchers followed 27,842 men over the course of 20 years. The men, all healthcare professionals who averaged 51 years of age, were asked to fill out questionnaires about their regular diets, and especially their fruit and vegetable consumption. Every four years, they completed the same questionnaires.

“One of the most important factors in this study is that we were able to research and track such a large group of men over a 20-year period of time, allowing for very telling results,” says study author Changzheng Yuan, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a release by the American Academy of Neurology.

Daily vegetable consumption ranged from six servings at the high end to two servings at the low end, with a serving consisting of one cup of raw vegetables or two cups of leafy greens. Daily fruit consumption ranged from three servings at the high end to one-half serving at the low end, with just one cup of fruit or one-half cup of fruit juice considered an adequate serving size.

Toward the end of the study, participants were given a subjective test of their thinking and memory skills. By now, the men were an average age of 73. The six test questions — such as, “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items, such as a shopping list?” — were designed to pick up on early signs of memory changes.

The study found that the group of men who ate six servings of vegetables per day were 34 percent less likely to have poor thinking skills than the group of men who consumed just two servings. Cognitive functioning also remained higher for men who ate more vegetables.

Drinking orange juice regularly appears to be a simple way to maintain thinking skills, especially for older men. Men in the older group who drank orange juice daily were 47 percent less likely to report having poor thinking abilities than those who drank less than one serving per month.

Researchers found that the sooner the men increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, the better the results. Men who ate the most servings of fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the study were the least likely to have developed thinking and memory problems 20 years later.

The authors caution that their results do not prove that eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more orange juice will prevent memory loss. The study merely shows an association between the two. But it certainly does make the case to drop more blueberries, carrots and orange juice into your grocery cart next time you shop.

“Our studies provide further evidence dietary choices can be important to maintain your brain health,” concludes Yuan.

The study is published in the November 21, 2018, online issue of Neurology.

About Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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