Eating an orange a day could slash the risk of dementia, a major study shows.
Daily intake of any citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons or limes can cut the chances of developing the incurable brain condition by almost a quarter, it suggests.
The findings, by a team of scientists at Tohoku University in Japan, suggest that tangy fruits could be a powerful weapon against a disease that is emerging as a modern day epidemic.
Numerous studies have suggested that citrus fruits can protect the brain against the damage that leads to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Citric acid contains the chemical nobiletin which in animal tests has been shown to slow or reverse impairment of memory.
But the new research, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, is the first major study to investigate the effect citrus fruit consumption might have on large numbers of those most at risk.
Scientists tracked more than 13,000 middle-aged or elderly men and women for several years and found those with a daily intake of citrus were 23 per cent less likely to develop dementia than those eating it less than twice a week.
The results come days after experts warned Britain faces an epidemic of dementia.
Researchers led by University College London and Liverpool University said the total affected will jump 60 per cent to 1.2million in England alone by 2040.
Without suitable health campaigns to raise awareness of how to prevent the brain disorder, experts said this figure could hit 1.9million – up from 800,000 currently.
New cases of dementia are actually falling in Britain, at a rate of over 2 per cent a year. But an ageing population means the numbers living with it will carry on rising for at least the next 20 years.
In the latest study, scientists tracked older adults for up to seven years to see how many developed dementia.
Rates of dementia among those eating citrus fruits at least once a day were significantly lower than in volunteers having them less than twice a week.
In a report, the scientists said: ‘Some biological studies have indicated citrus may have preventive effects against cognitive impairment.
‘But no study has examined the relation between citrus consumption and rates of dementia. Our findings suggest frequent consumption is linked with a lower risk of dementia.’