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Stay Da Vinci Sharp with Leafy Greens

Jun. 8, 2015|564 views
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Leonardo da Vinci was arguably one of the brightest minds of his day, if not of all time. He advanced our understanding of subjects as varied as physics, medicine, physiology, mathematics, painting, optics, anatomy, and even warfare. He also lived longer than his peers, dying at the ripe old age of 67, at a time when the average life expectancy rarely exceeded 40-something.

Da Vinci stood out for any number of reasons. Among them was his diet. At a time when most men who could afford it dined almost exclusively on meat, da Vinci may have been a vegetarian. We can’t actually be sure, but it seems he preferred a plant-based diet. There’s no question that he favored moderation, especially in one’s diet.

If he was a vegetarian, he may have been on to something. Modern research continues to confirm that a diet rich in plant foods is good for health, longevity, and even sharp minds. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center note that green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, collards, and mustard greens, could help prevent age-related cognitive decline.

"Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer's disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and dementia,” said Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D.

Morris recently lead a research team that investigated the effects of dietary habits on the risk of cognitive decline. The team followed nearly one thousand older individuals for more than five years. One standout finding of the research: Subjects who consumed the greatest amounts of green leafy vegetables experienced the lowest levels of cognitive decline. People who ate at least one serving per day exhibited brain health comparable to someone 11 years younger.

"Our study identified some very novel associations," said Morris. "No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein.” Morris attributes subjects’ better health to specific nutrients that are found in green leafy vegetables and other brightly-colored vegetables. ”Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning." 

Dewitt, Dave (2007). Da Vinci’s Kitchen: A Secret History of Italian Cuisine. BenBella Books, US.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). "Eating green leafy vegetables keeps mental abilities sharp." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2015.


Tags:  mediterranean diet, prevention, chronic illness