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Berries Promote Brain Health, Prevent Memory Loss

Berries promote brain health

An apple a day is good for your health, but berries have some convincing scientific evidence to support their role in promoting brain health. Whether your favorites are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or other berries, these little fruits can help prevent memory loss and support brain health, according to a new study.

Berries are a delicious approach to brain health

People are living longer, and with a longer lifespan comes a myriad of potential and actual health problems. While it’s well established that eating a nutritious diet has a positive impact on health as people age, some foods stand out when it comes to supporting the aging process, including brain health.

Berries are on the stand-out list, according to a new review appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. According to the authors, berries are rich in “phytochemicals that offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and direct effects on the brain.”

In addition, each type of berry possesses different types of phytochemicals, which means their benefits can cover a wide spectrum. The authors, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, and Marshall G. Miller, with the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, noted the following points in their review.

  • Berries contain high levels of potent antioxidants known as anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that are responsible for the bright colors of berries. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which are molecules that damage cells and contribute to the aging process
  • Studies show anthocyanins are neuroavailable, which means they can have a positive impact on brain cells
  • The phytochemicals in berries may prevent age-related interference with calcium homeostasis in the brain and thus help preserve brain health
  • Numerous studies have shown that eating berries (cranberries, strawberries, blueberries) has anti-inflammatory effects that may mitigate risk factors for degeneration of brain cells
  • Consuming blueberries has been shown to help memory and learning among older adults with mild cognitive impairment
  • Berries can change how neurons in the brain communicate with each other, which in turn can prevent inflammation that contributes to cell damage

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Other health benefits from berries
Beyond supporting brain health, berries have been associated with a number of other health benefits. Blueberries, for example, have been shown to slow breast cancer growth in mice, help with weight loss efforts, and protect against colitis.

Strawberries have been named as possibly helping in the prevention of esophageal cancer and reducing chronic inflammation, while raspberries have been associated with the prevention of a number of different types of cancer.

For now, researchers have only a partial picture of the possible and potential benefits associated with the phytochemicals in berries. The authors noted that more research is needed to identify the availability of the compounds in berries and their actions in the brain.

They also noted “it is not yet clear whether the consumption of a variety of high-polyphenol foods, such as mixed berries, would provide additive benefits that exceed those of supplementation with a single berry fruit.” Given the potential for berries to promote brain health and prevent memory loss, and the fact they taste so good, why would you want to eat just one?

Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale, B. Berry fruit enhances beneficial signaling in the brain. J Agric Food Chem 2012; doi:10.1021/jf2036033

Image: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons