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B vitamin may help keep us mentally fit as we age

Folate, the B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables and citrus fruit, may help you maintain your mental sharpness as you age.

Tufts nutrition scientists studying a group of Boston-area men found that men whose diets contained more folate showed significantly less decline in verbal fluency over three years than did men who ate less folate.

High folate levels in the diet and in the blood also appear to protect against declines in another category of cognitive skills known as spatial copying, according to the research team, led by Katherine L. Tucker, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

To test this, the study participants, ages 50 to 85, were asked to copy various shapes and figures, and their drawings were assessed for accuracy.

“The men took a series of cognitive tests at the beginning of the study period and then repeated those tests three years later,” Tucker said. “We compared their first and second scores, reviewed their responses to dietary questionnaires and took blood samples to see if nutrient levels in the diet and the blood were related to changes in cognitive performance.”

The study was reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.