After wasting decades and billions of dollars trying to develop a drug cure for Alzheimer’s (AD) and dementia, big pharma still has nothing to offer men and women struggling with these devastating brain diseases. Meanwhile, the science continues to strengthen regarding the use of non-drug, natural approaches for stopping and even treating them.
In fact, a major, long-term study just found that women who regularly eat orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables have “substantially lower” odds of developing memory loss.
I’ll tell you all about that exciting, new study in just a moment. (And share with you my French recipe that incorporates these fresh, colorful vegetables.)
But first, let’s talk about the plant pigments responsible for this remarkable brain benefit…
What are carotenoids?
Carotenoids are plant pigments that give orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables their distinctive color.
In the mid-1980s, while a young research investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I helped discover the presence of carotenoids in different healthy fruits and vegetables and studied their role in human nutrition and metabolism.
Of course, back then, the NIH only wanted to focus on beta-carotene—a carotenoid that in subsequent studies failed to prevent cancer when taken as an isolated, synthetic supplement (as I predicted and published that it would fail).
But I also focused on lesser-known carotenoids (such as lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) because they’re more commonly found in a wide range of healthy foods. And lutein and zeaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which also explains why they’re so beneficial for the brain and cognition.
And that point brings me back to the new study…
New research links carotenoids to improved cognitive function
For the new analysis, researchers assessed the impact of a carotenoid-rich diet on cognition among almost 50,000 women involved in the famous Nurses’ Health Study. (I often discuss this important, long-term study, which began in 1976. It is one of the largest investigations ever undertaken into the risk factors for major chronic diseases in women. From the original Nurses’ Health Study established in 1976, the studies are now in their third generation and involve more than 280,000 participants.)
At the outset of this new analysis, the women were, on average, 48 years of age. And the researchers followed them for 30 years until 2014, so they could really examine diseases associated with older ages.
The women in the study completed questionnaires about their diets (and their carotenoid intakes) in 1984, 1986, and then every four years until 2006. They also took regular cognitive function tests via telephone.
(I can personally attest that these telephone assessments can be thorough, substantive, and in-depth, since I had to take one in order to qualify for my long-term care insurance. Of course, it was administered by a humorless insurance clerk, instead of a qualified health professional. I passed and got my long-term care insurance. But remember, unless you work for the feds and make us taxpayers pay for your long-term care insurance, you need to arrange for your own. I recommend looking at a policy wrapped with life insurance—as it’s the only approach that I found to make real sense financially.)
In the women’s study, based on the results of the tests taken in 2012 and 2014, the researchers categorized the women’s cognitive function as:
- Good (41 percent)
- Moderate (47 percent)
- Poor (12 percent)
It turns out, the women with higher dietary carotenoid intake had a significantly lower risk of having “moderate” or “poor” cognitive function later in life. Specifically, when comparing high to low intake, carotenoids reduced the risk of declining to “moderate” brain function by up to 20 percent and of declining to “poor” function by up to 40 percent!
Although this study only involved women, other studies also suggest that carotenoid intake protects cognition in older men as well. Which means everyone should seek to add plenty of carotenoid-rich foods—such as eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes—to their diet.
Ratatouille, a traditional French stew, is one of my favorite dishes to make with these carotenoid-rich vegetables. And I well remember enjoying it in France when visiting with my great-grandmother, grandmother, great aunt, mother, and my grandfather’s mistress. Eventually, I even made it for most of them at different times and was pleased that it passed muster.
A classic French dish to support brain health
There are many different ways to make ratatouille. But I tend to keep it simple and begin by sautéing in a deep, heavy pot two diced onions and a clove of chopped garlic in olive oil.
While the onions and garlic are browning, I cube the other vegetables and add them to the pot in this order: peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes. Then, I add some herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.
Once everything is in the big pot, I bring the stew to a simmer, then turn it down to medium-low and cook it for about an hour and 30 minutes. (A shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces. And longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.)
Just before serving, I remove the bay leaf and add some chopped basil. I heartily recommend enjoying it with a piece of organic, crusty, French bread to sop up the sauce. And don’t worry if you have leftovers…
I find ratatouille only gets better on the second and third day, as do most slow-cooked, homemade dishes.
In addition to regularly enjoying ratatouille and other carotenoid-rich dishes, you have many other natural ways to prevent and reserve the cognitive decline associated with AD and dementia, as I report in my Complete Alzheimer’s Fighting Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive protocol, or to enroll today, simply click here.
P.S. Be sure to check your inbox tomorrow, as I have a special, FREE report coming your way to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
“Long-Term Intake of Dietary Carotenoids Is Positively Associated with Late-Life Subjective Cognitive Function in a Prospective Study in US Women.” J Nutr, 2020 Jul 1;150(7):1871-1879. doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa087.