How drinking orange juice, aerobic exercise boosts brain power by 50%
*Vitamin C reduces damage done to unborn babies’ lungs by pregnant mothers who smoke
Drinking a glass of orange juice every day could significantly lower your risk of getting dementia, a study suggests.Researchers tracked almost 28,000 men for two decades to examine how their fruit and vegetable consumption affected their brain-power.They found men who drank a small glass of orange juice were 47 per cent less likely to have difficulty remembering, following instructions or navigating familiar areas.
Lapses in memory, understanding and episodes of confusion can be early signs of brain decline, which can ultimately lead to life-threatening dementia.
An estimated 46.8 million people are living with dementia worldwide – 850,000 within in the United Kingdom (U.K.), and five million in the United States (U.S.).
There is no cure for the condition but scientists have been trying to find a cure for the memory-robbing disorder for years. This new evidence reiterates the importance of a healthy diet in staving off the degeneration of the brain, which comes with old age.The study published in the journal Neurology.
“Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and nutrients, including antioxidants, that can help protect the brain,” said Dr. Hannah Gardener, a researcher at the University of Miami, who wasn’t involved with the research.These health-giving benefits can protect the brain from a build-up of unwanted molecules and maintain a healthy blood supply to the brain.
Lead study author Changzheng Yuan said long-term intake of veg, fruit and orange juice ‘may be beneficial’ for maintaining cognitive function.Participants in the Harvard University study answered questionnaires about what they ate every four years.The researchers sorted the men – aged 51 on average at the start of the study – into five groups based on their intake of fruit and veg.
Meanwhile, aerobic exercise such as walking and running may halt dementia by preventing the brain from shrinking, research suggested in November 2017.
Being active several times a week maintains the size of the region of the brain associated with memory, a study found.Known as the hippocampus, this region is often one of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimer’s patients.
Lead author Joseph Firth from the Western Sydney University, said: “When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain.“In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance programme for the brain.”
The scientists, from the universities of Western Sydney and Manchester, analysed 14 studies with a total of 737 participants.The participants were aged between 24 and 76, with an average age of 66.
They were made up of healthy individuals, Alzheimer’s patients and people with mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia.Scans of the participants’ brains were investigated before and after completing exercise, such as walking or treadmill running.
The exercise programmes lasted between three months and two years, with participants completing two to five sessions a week. The group with the highest consumption ate about six servings of vegetables a day, compared to two servings for the group with the lowest consumption. A serving of vegetables is considered one cup of raw vegetables or two cups of leafy greens.
For fruits, the top group ate about three servings per day, compared to half a serving in the bottom group. A serving of fruit is considered one cup of fruit or a half-cup of fruit juice. To measure how this affected brain health, the researchers took tests of thinking and memory skills when the men were 73 years old, on average.
The tests asked things such as whether the men could remember recent events or items on shopping lists. Overall, 6.6 percent of men who ate the most veg developed poor cognitive function and performed badly on the tests, compared with 7.9 percent of men who ate the least.
Fruit consumption, overall, didn’t appear to influence the risk of moderate cognitive problems. But drinking orange juice did, according to the research, published in the journal Neurology. Just 6.9 of people who drank orange juice every day went on to develop poor cognitive function.
In comparison, the figure was 8.4 per cent of men who drank orange juice less than once a month.“The protective role of regular consumption of fruit juice was mainly observed among the oldest men,” Ms Yuan said.“Since fruit juice is usually high in calories from concentrated fruit sugars, it’s generally best to consume no more than a small glass (four to six ounces) per day.”
The study didn’t intend to find the link between a healthy diet and memory, however. Therefore it lacked data on participants memory skills at the beginning of the study, which would have shown how their diet might have influenced this over time. Dr. Hannah Gardener added: “Fruit and vegetable consumption may be a piece of the puzzle to maintaining cognitive health and should be viewed in conjunction with other behaviors believed to support cognitive health.”
Also, pregnant women who struggle to quit smoking should take vitamin C to better protect the lungs of their unborn child, a new study suggests.
Researchers say babies, whose mothers took 500mg of vitamin C daily, had healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not.The team, led by Oregon Health & Science University, says the nutrient found in citrus fruits could provide a safe and inexpensive intervention for pregnant women hooked on cigarettes.
However, they stress that helping mothers quit smoking should remain the primary goal of health professionals and public health officials. It is well known that women who smoke while pregnant create several health problems for their children.Smoking raises the risk of premature birth, vaginal bleeding and problems with the placenta.
It also increases a baby’s risk of defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate or a low birth weight. Additionally, if women smoke while pregnant, it could damage unborn babies’ lungs at crucial points in their development – leading to reduced lung capacity in later life.For the study, the team based their tests on forced expiratory flows (FEFs), which measures the speed at which air coming out of the lungs during the middle portion of a forced exhalation.
Researchers say these tests are a good measure of function because they can detect airway obstruction.The team looked at more than 250 pregnant smokers who began the study between 13 and 23 weeks into their term.All of the women received counseling on quitting smoking throughout the course of the study, with about one in 10 doing so.Half of the women received a vitamin C pill and the other half received a placebo pill.
The babies of the women who took vitamin C pills did better on FEFs than the babies of those who took placebo pills. “Smoking during pregnancy reflects the highly addictive nature of nicotine that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations,” said lead author Dr Cindy McEvoy, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University.
“Finding a way to help infants exposed to smoking and nicotine in the womb recognizes the unique dangers posed by a highly advertised, addictive product and the lifetime effects on offspring who did not choose to be exposed.” Dr McEvoy says the study supports the hypothesis that cigarette smoking reduces the amount of vitamin C available in the body.
By taking a supplement, mothers can protect their cells from the damage caused by free radicals. In a previous study led by Dr McEvoy, her team found the babies of mothers born to smokers had better lung function 72 hours birth when their mothers took 500 mg of vitamin C compared to the same dose of a placebo.
However, that study did not use FEFs to measure lung function, which is what doctors use to diagnose lung disease in adults and older children. The infants in this study will continued to be monitored for lung function and to have respiratory outcomes analyzed.
For future studies, the researchers want to see if pregnant women taking vitamin C supplements earlier in pregnancy could provide greater outcomes.
McEvoy says that although vitamin C may be ‘a safe and inexpensive intervention’, the primary goal should be helping mother quit smoking. “Although vitamin C supplementation may protect to some extent the lungs of babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, those children will still be at greater risk for obesity, behavioral disorders and other serious health issues,” she said.
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