researchers also accounted for education, income and physical activity. Those factors may help explain the relationship between antioxidant levels and dementia, according to the study authors.
The study also only measured blood at one time and may not reflect participants’ antioxidants levels over their lifetimes.
How many antioxidants do we need in our diet?
“It is important to keep in mind that experts do not yet know how much antioxidants we need to consume each day through our diet and supplements for a healthy brain,” Ferrucci notes.
Determining ways to prevent the development of dementia is an important public health challenge, he adds, but the results of previous studies have been mixed.
According to researchers, antioxidants may help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which can cause cell damage.
“Population studies that follow healthy people over many years for the development of dementia enable us to look for potential risk factors and also protective factors, such as dietary and lifestyle choices,” Ferrucci notes.
Yuko Hara, director of Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at the Alzheimer’s Drug Development Foundation, says the study was unique in its use of blood markers rather than patient recall about foods they have eaten.
Hara also notes that the association between the antioxidants and dementia in this study was lessened when accounting for other factors.
“It’s not that they’re not involved, it’s the totality I think, and it’s part of the many different things you can do for good brain health,” Hara adds.
How to keep your brain healthy
These include good nutrition, with an emphasis on following a Mediterranean diet, getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and exercising at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week.
The other steps are easing stress, being social, continuing to learn and managing chronic illnesses that have been associated with dementia risk, including diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension).
“These are conditions that if you leave it untreated you are also harming your brain health and potentially [increasing] Alzheimer’s risk, as well as overall dementia risk. If you have those conditions, you really want to keep them under control with lifestyle interventions or, if not enough with lifestyle interventions, most likely your doctor will prescribe you medications so that your blood pressure and glucose levels will be managed well,” Hara says. “That’s what we recommend.”