Berries Keep the Mind Young
The bioflavonoids in berries seem to protect the brain from the effects of aging
Women who eat more berries could knock a couple of years off their "brain age," according to a study in the Annals of Neurology. "The bioflavonoids in berries seem to protect the brain from the effects of aging, presumably by decreasing inflammation and providing the brain with powerful antioxidants," said lead study author, Dr. Elizabeth Devore.
What's in a berry?
Bioflavonoids, sometimes just called flavonoids, are compounds that give plants their characteristic colors. Deep blues, reds, and purples come from a type of bioflavonoid called anthocyanidins. Berries are especially rich in anthocyanidins.
Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how bioflavonoids work, but we do know that they are powerful antioxidants, they can limit inflammation in the body, and they are involved with how cells communicate with each other.
Some studies suggest that the anthocyanidins in berries might help preserve cognitive (brain) function.
Berry up your brain
Women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study were invited to join a branch of the study that looked at berry consumption, thinking (cognitive function), and memory. To measure this, more than 16,000 women 70 years of age and older took a series of tests twice, two years apart.
Here's what the researchers found:
"These findings potentially have substantial public health implications, as increasing berry intake represents a fairly simple dietary modification to test in older adults for maintaining cognition," said Devore.
Devise a very berry dietBerries abound in the spring and summer months, making it easy to find fresh, local fruit. During the rest of the year, frozen berries are the next best option. Berries are often sprayed with pesticides, so people who want to avoid residue should buy organic.
Here are some easy ways to enjoy more berries:
(Ann Neurol 2012;DOI:10.1002/ana.23594)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation's premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.