A new study has found that men who eat fruits and vegetables and in general, follow a healthy diet are protecting their brains without knowing it. The study had been closely following a large group of men for more than two decades and the result could be significant in treating conditions that affect the brain.
The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA. They looked at another study which had followed a group of 27,842 men over a period of 26 years. The study they looked at not only covered a large group of people, but it was also conducted for a fairly long time as well. Therefore, the results obtained were reliable and highly representative of the general population.
Men who participated in the study regularly filled detailed surveys which asked them about the type of diet they follow, going into specifics like the type of food and drink they have daily. They started filling these surveys all the way from 1986 till 2012 when the average age was in the mid-’70s region.
Apart from surveys, the participants also gave tests from time to time to see whether their ability to think or remember things had declined or not. The results weren’t surprising. They weren’t surprising in the sense that we all know that eating ‘healthy’ is good for us. The results of this study just reinforce the claims of experts that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of any healthy diet because of their high nutritional value.
The researchers used the Subject Cognitive Function Test (SCF) which is able to determine whether a person has noticed any changes in their memory or brain abilities in general. The test consists of questions such as asking the patient whether they can follow a movie plot properly or if they have any trouble remembering a short list of items such as a grocery list. The test is quite a powerful tool to determine how well a person is doing with their memory and it can even help in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Two SCF tests were conducted during the study, one in 2008 and one in 2012. The scores were then categorized as either good, moderate, or poor. 55% of the men in the study had a “good” score, while 38% scored a moderate score, and only 7% did poorly.
How the men were split up
The men were split into 5 groups, each of which signified a certain level amount fruit and vegetable intake. The group that ate the most vegetables ate an average of 6 servings a day whereas the lowest group had an average intake of 2 servings a day. The difference in fruits was a bit more interesting. The group with the highest fruit intake was 3 servings a day whereas the group with the lowest had only half a serving each day.
A comparison was done on the basis of these groups and the results obtained from the previous SCF tests. The researchers found that men who ate the most vegetables had a significantly lower chance of having any decline in memory whatsoever. 7.9% of men from the least vegetable group scored a “poor” rating in the SCF test.
Another interesting thing they found was that those who drank orange juice daily had a 47% less chance to get a poor SCF score when compared to people who drank orange juice once a month. It was also found that men who ate the most fruits daily were least likely to have a poor SCF score.
Although we can never derive cause and effect from observational studies because there are many factors one can’t control, the results of this study are quite significant. The study not only covered a large number of people, but it went on for a long time as well, therefore, making it very reliable.
The latest study makes it pretty clear: fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. If there wasn’t enough evidence before, there is now. As one of the authors of the study Dr. Changzheng Yuan says:
“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.”