Flavonoid-Rich Diet May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

A new study from Tufts University found that diets rich in berries and red wine could reduce the risk of the degenerative disease

Flavonoid-Rich Diet May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
Red grapes and red wine contain anthocyanins, which the study found may decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer's. (istockphotos)
May 13, 2020

New evidence suggests that eating your fruits and vegetables—and enjoying a glass of wine—can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. A new study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that higher intake of flavonoids, which are polyphenolic compounds found in plant-based foods, including grapes and wine, was associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Past studies have found evidence of a link between the flavonoids in wine and lower risk of Alzheimer's, but this analysis is supported by a much longer study, adding considerable weight to the data. The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), a long-term ongoing project in Framingham, Mass. Dr. Paul Jacques and his team of researchers examined dietary habits, including flavonoid intake, of 2,800 participants over the course of 20 years.

The study focused on six classes of flavonoids commonly found in Western diets: anthocyanin, flavanone, flavan-3-ol, flavone, flavonol and isoflavone. Researchers created four intake levels based on percentiles: less than or equal to the 15th percentile (low intake), 15th to 30th percentile, 30th to 60th percentile, and greater than 60th percentile (high intake). They used cumulative data from five four-year exams that included food frequency questionnaires, and compared flavonoid intake with onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Out of the 2,800 participants, 158 eventually developed Alzheimer's disease.


Want to learn more about how wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Wine & Healthy Living e-mail newsletter and get the latest health news, feel-good recipes, wellness tips and more delivered straight to your inbox every other week!


The results showed that higher long-term intake of flavonoid-rich foods was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Particularly, those with low intake of anthocyanins, commonly found in red wine, were four times more likely to eventually develop Alzheimer's disease and related dementias compared to those with a high intake.

"Red wine was a minor contributor to all of the flavonoid classes except for anthocyanins, where it ranked as the fourth-leading contributor to intake," Dr. Jacques told Wine Spectator. He said that moderate red wine consumption, defined by the study as one drink a day for women and two for men, is a good source of proper flavonoid intake, but that it should be coupled with regular consumption of berries.

Observational studies will always have limitations based on questionnaire inaccuracies. Dr. Jacques has tried to tackle confounding variables by adjusting findings for obesity, smoking and exercise habits, as well as other diet-related factors. But he is still not convinced that flavonoids are completely responsible for lower Alzheimer's disease risk. However, he said, the link between Alzheimer's and diet is very strong. The study mentions the popular Mediterranean diet as a great source of flavonoid-rich foods.

"[Diet] is important,” Dr. Jacques said, “as there are currently no treatments for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias."

News Health Alzheimer's / Dementia

You Might Also Like

Big in Bolgheri: A Live Chat with Ornellaia's Axel Heinz

Big in Bolgheri: A Live Chat with Ornellaia's Axel Heinz

The star winemaker opens up about his philosophy toward making wine on Tuscany's coast, the …

Jan 25, 2021
Bordeaux's Château du Tertre Sold

Bordeaux's Château du Tertre Sold

The Albada Jelgersma family will focus on Château Giscours and its Tuscan winery; the …

Jan 21, 2021
Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation Donates $100,000 to Support Diversity in Wine Education

Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation Donates $100,000 to Support Diversity in Wine Education

The contribution to the Glancy Wine Education Foundation will provide financial aid to …

Jan 21, 2021
Why Can't You Smell? Doctors and Scientists Are Working to Understand COVID-19's Impact on Our Senses

Why Can't You Smell? Doctors and Scientists Are Working to Understand COVID-19's Impact on Our Senses

One of the telltale symptoms of coronavirus infection is a nightmare for wine lovers: loss …

Jan 20, 2021
Wine After War in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Wine After War in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Josip Brkić began building his family's wine brand during the bloodshed of the Bosnian War; …

Jan 19, 2021
Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

And catch up on past episodes on the magazine's IGTV channel

Jan 26, 2021