Eaten your berries today? Find out how berries may help in the fight against Cognitive Decline

Recent research published in The Annals of Neurology reported that greater intakes of strawberries and blueberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline. The study results suggest that cognitive aging could be delayed by up to 2.5 years in the elderly who consume greater amounts of the flavonoid-rich berries.

Near 175,000 Australians had dementia in 2003, of whom, 81% were aged 75 or older. As dementia prevalence is strongly age-related, the number of cases of dementia is expected to increase to almost 465,000 by 2031.

Everyone could use a good dose of antioxidants in their lives to fight off free-radicals. This doesn’t mean you can just take one antioxidant supplement and it will be the ‘cure all’. Different antioxidants have been found to be beneficial in different situations, emphasizing the need for antioxidant intake to be from a whole food containing various antioxidants. In the case of cognitive decline previous investigations showed that anthocyanidins have proved promising.

Fruits contain a group of phytonutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids generally have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Berries contain flavonoids, notably the anthocyanidins from the flavonoid family.

In previous experimental studies in animals and small scale trials in the elderly, flavonoids were found to have a positive effect on cognitive function. These outcomes supported further investigation of their effect in human subjects.

The research started in 1980, participants were given a food frequency questionnaire every 4 years, which included berry intake.  From 1995 to 2001 in addition to the food frequency questionnaire 16,010 participants (over 70 years old) cognitive function was measured at 2 year intervals.

The researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake could delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Elizabeth Devore stated, “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”

 

References

AIHW 2007. Dementia in Australia: national data analysis and development. Cat. no. AGE 53. Canberra: AIHW. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442467941

Devore E.E, Kang J.H, Breteler M.M.B, Grodstein F 2012. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23594

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