A team of researchers from Utah State University says fruits and vegetables help protect elderly people from a decline in their mental, or cognitive, abilities. The work is part of the Cache County study on Memory, Health and Aging, one of the largest studies of its kind. Those who ate more fruits and vegetables scored higher on cognitive tests than those who did not. "It's only about a point on the scale that we use," says lead investigator Heidi Wengreen, "But it is highly statistically significant."
Ms. Wengreen says the difference is equivalent to a five-year age gap between those who consumed fruits and vegetables and those who did not. The study also takes into account many other factors like age, gender and smoking. "We can see," she says, "when we put those in our statistical models the effect of fruits and vegetables remains, which means that it is an independent effect."
Heidi Wengreen says the data will also help determine whether fruits and vegetables play a role in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The Cache County study on Memory, Health and
Aging began in 1995 and is still in progress. It has followed 5,000 men and women between the ages of 65 and 102.