Berry good for brains

Berries are wonderful sources of antioxidants. NASA is so impressed with the antioxidant capacity of strawberries that they look at giving strawberry concentrate to astronauts to protect them from radiation as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Now a new study has shown that strawberries, and also blueberries, could delay by years slowing down of the brain that occurs due to ageing.

Flavonoids are the antioxidant components of many plants that are richly supplied in strawberries and blueberries. As well as being antioxidant these flavonoids have an anti-inflammatory effect. Since inflammation and stress are thought to play a major role in cognitive decline as you age, these researchers wanted to see whether eating these berries might correlate to a slower rate of brain deterioration.

To examine this they used data from the Nurses Health Study which draws on data from 121,700 nurses. The study began in 1976 and the nurses were all aged between 30 and 55 when they were examined. Between 1995 and 2001 16,000 of them, by then aged at least 70, had their cognitive function assessed at two year intervals and their results were matched against their diet.

It was found that those who ate more strawberries and blueberries had slower rates of cognitive decline that meant their brains were effectively 2.5 years younger than their non-berry eating counterparts.

It is possible that other lifestyle factors that go along with high intakes of berries could have contributed to the effect. It remains a fact though, given their generally healthy nature and despite the obligatory pun, that strawberries and blueberries and berries in general are a berry good thing to be eating.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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