Berry Phytochemicals: Weight, Metabolism and Cognition
Whilst it is possible to manufacture vitamins and minerals to make a multivitamin pill, many other unique plant chemicals are too complex to recreate in a lab. Therefore even though taking a multivitamin daily is recommended for good health, it is also important that you consume foods that supply a range of other beneficial plant chemicals, especially antioxidant compounds.
Plant-derived polyphenols in berries have been linked to many health benefits, including anti-aging. Studies have shown their protective effects against degenerative diseases. These berries are used in folk medicine. These and other plant polyphenols have been shown to have valuable effects on healthy aging.
Cranberries, followed by blueberries have the highest total antioxidant capacity of 24 commonly eaten fruits1. Blueberries and cranberries, members of the Vaccinium genus, contain high levels of phytochemicals2,3. Studies show that the phytochemicals in these berries, flavonoids and pterostillbene, may have numerous health benefits2,3. Emerging evidence suggests that these phytochemicals can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, through antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antilipidemic (improved blood lipid/fat profile), antihyperglycemic (anti-high blood sugar), and antihypertensive (anti-high blood pressure) properties4. Additionally, studies suggest that these phytochemicals may help weight, metabolism, cognition and memory5. Additionally blueberries have been shown to inhibit cancer proliferation5.
Thousands of phytochemicals have been identified by scientists, but only a few have been studied closely. Pterostillbene is a phytochemical found in both cranberries and blueberries. Pterostillbene has been linked to protecting heart health7, anti-ageing5, glucose regulation8, oxidative stress management9, cognitive functions9, and weight loss10.
Strawberries have antiproliferative (anti-cancer growth) and antioxidant11 activity and studies show they may help prevent cancer cell proliferation12 and increase serum antioxidant capacity. Strawberries contain polyphenols, micronutrients and fibre and there consumption is linked with improved cardiovascular health4. Strawberries are high in ellagic acid (see table 1) which are compounds that have been shown to exhibit anti-cancer activity, by blocking initiation of carcinogenesis and suppressing proliferation of tumors13,14. Additionally, animal studies have shown a diet rich in strawberries may be beneficial to brain activity in the elderly13,14.
Table 1. Ellagic acid content of different foods15.
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13. Narayanan, B.A., Geoffroy, O., Willingham, M.C., Re, G.G., and Nixon, D.W. 1999. p53/p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression and its possible role in G1 arrest and apoptosis in ellagic acid treated cancer cells. Cancer Lett., 136(2):215–221.
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