Fruit and Vegetable Intake Could Benefit Cognitive Function

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables with high fiber may support cognitive performance, new research suggests.

“Vegetables and fruits (VF) may differentially affect cognitive functions, presumably due to their various nutrient contents, but evidence from epidemiologic studies is limited,” wrote the study authors, whose work was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

To conduct their study, the researchers evaluated a cohort of 3,231 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years at baseline. Participants were followed for 25 years in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. Baseline diet measurements were taken, and diet was evaluated again at years 7 and 20. After 25 years, three tests were used to measure cognitive function: the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), and the Stroop test.

When adjusting for confounding factors, there was a significant correlation between the intake of whole vegetables (with the exception of potatoes) and better cognitive performance (quintile 5 compared with quintile 1—RAVLT, MD: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.64; P-trend = 0.08; DSST, MD: 2.84; 95% CI: 0.93, 4.75; P-trend < 0.01; Stroop test, MD: −2.87; 95% CI: −4.24, −1.50; P-trend < 0.01). The same association was found between high fruit intake (but not fruit juices) and better cognitive performance (quintile 5 compared with quintile 1—DSST, MD: 2.41; 95% CI: 0.70, 4.12; P-trend = 0.03). Compared to whole vegetables and fruits, potatoes and fruit juices are lower in fiber, the researchers noted.

Another good reason fruits and vegetables have an important place in a well-rounded diet pertains to cardiovascular outcomes, another recent study found. According to the research, many preventable cardiovascular deaths take place each year due to an inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables. The findings, were presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, suggested that about 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths are due to not eating enough fruit—resulting in about 1.8 million deaths—while 1 in 12 can be attributed to not eating enough vegetables—about 1 million deaths.