Strategies to prevent cognitive decline are needed because of "sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia" - Representational image Getty

With a sharp rise in the number of people suffering from dementia, a new study has established a correlation between reduced memory loss and the addition of leafy greens in one's diet.

The findings of the study, published in American Academy of Neurology's medical journal, suggested that eating salads and green vegetables could not only boost memory but also keep the brain younger.

"Adding a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to help promote brain health," said researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Explaining why there is a critical need to come up with strategies to prevent cognitive decline, the study's lead author Martha Clare Morris said, "[There has been a] sharp increase in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number."

Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at the university, and her team found that elderly people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens every day performed better in tests of memory and thinking skills than people who rarely or never ate them. In fact, it was found that the brains of those who included veggies in their diet were almost 11 years younger in comparison to their counterparts.

For the research, a total number of 960 volunteers participated – of an average age of 81 and not having dementia. A record of their eating habits were kept for an average of 4.7 years with yearly tests of their cognitive and memory skills.

Spinach and green vegetables
Eating salads and green vegetables could not only boost memory but also keep the brain younger Getty

Throughout the process, these elderly people had to fill out regular questionnaires about their diet and the rate of consumption of greens such as spinach, kale, collards and lettuce.

Based on their consumption of leafy greens, the participants were divided into five groups, ranging from people who ate about 1.3 servings of greens per day on an average to those who consumed as low as 0.1 servings per day.

After a follow-up of 10 years, scientists found out that the group which consumed the maximum amount of green veggies showed the lowest rate of decline – an equivalent to being 11 years younger in terms of ageing of the brain.

However, Morris added, "The study results do not prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain ageing, but it does show an association."

Furthermore, she suggested that the results of the research may not apply for younger adults and for people of other races.