Get your mugs ready! 

A new study from the University of Barcelona found that certain plant products may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in the elderly. The 12-year study, which was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, followed 842 people over the age of 65 living in three cities in the Bordeaux and Dijon regions of France. The study analyzed the relationship between the metabolism of dietary components, intestinal microbiota (aka the bacteria in your gut), other normal metabolic processes and cognitive impairment. 

Mireia Urpí-Sardà, one of the study's authors says in a media release, "What we analyzed in the cohorts under study is the modulating role of the diet in the risk of suffering cognitive impairment". She points out that "the results show a significant association between these processes and certain metabolites." In short, this means that diet can play a major role in the development of cognitive impairments and dementia. 

Portrait of cheerful woman holding mug and smiling towards camera
Credit: Getty Images / JohnnyGreig

The study's results reveal there might be protective benefits from the dietary components in cocoa, coffee, mushrooms and red wine, as well as in polyphenol-rich foods (such as apples, cocoa, green tea, blueberries, oranges or pomegranates). 

These foods could help fight against cognitive impairment in the elderly, while other foods might actually increase dementia risk. Study author Cristina Andrés-Lacueva explains, "2-furoylglycine and 3-methylanthine, which are biomarkers of coffee and cocoa consumption, had a protective profile, while saccharin—derived from the consumption of artificial sweeteners—is associated with a damaging role."

This isn't the first time coffee and cocoa have been called out for their health benefits, either. Coffee has liver-protective benefits, it can lower your risk of heart disease and may even help you live longer, while cocoa can help protect your heart from stress.

While coffee and cocoa (as well as the other foods called out in this study) may provide brain-protecting benefits, living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to boost your brain health and lower your dementia risk. This includes exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating a nutritious diet. Andrés-Lacueva adds, "A higher intake of fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods provides polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline due to aging." 

The MIND Diet includes plenty of fruits, veggies and other plant foods to help keep your brain young—and previous research shows that following this eating plan could help prevent dementia. And if you like coffee or cocoa and want to sip on some this winter, that may just be an added, brain-boosting bonus! We have plenty of healthy coffee and cocoa recipes to keep you cozy.