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Why Women Need Berries, and Don't You Forget It

Berries support cognitive function in women

In 2000, there was a movie entitled “What Women Want,” but according to a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, what women need is berries, and lots of them. Apparently, berries can help put the brakes on cognitive decline among elderly women.

Berries contain brain boosters

You may like strawberries and blueberries for their juicy sweetness and the way they pop in your mouth when you bite into them, but researchers like them for another reason. These berries and others are excellent sources of phytonutrients called flavonoids, especially a subgroup called anthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.

Although everyone could use a good dose of free-radical fighting antioxidants in their lives, various antioxidants have been found to be particularly helpful in different situations. In the case of anthocyanidins, previous investigations have shown they can improve cognitive functions.

Now a research team has reported that older women who eat lots of strawberries and blueberries can delay their cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years. This finding could have a significant impact on the aging population.

Under the guidance of the study’s leader, Dr. Elizabeth Devore, the team evaluated data collected from the Nurses Health Study, focusing on 16,010 who had had their cognitive function assessed between 1995 and 2001 at two-yearly intervals and who were at least 70 years old.

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The authors reported that older women who consumed the most blueberries and strawberries had slower cognitive decline compared with women who ate the least. Devore noted that “We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women.”

Although the researchers did account for multiple factors, they noted that others could have had an impact on their findings. For example, the women who ate more berries could have been more physically active than their peers.

More goodness from berries
Previous studies have uncovered health benefits associated with eating berries. For example:

  • A Tufts University study team reported that the phytochemicals in berries may help prevent age-related interference with calcium homeostasis in the brain, and therefore help preserve brain health
  • A recent Harvard study found that berry consumption could help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women
  • Two separate studies in California found that blueberry powder reduced breast cancer tumor size in mice by 60% to 75% compared with a control group and also reduced spread of the disease
  • A Swedish study found that blueberries could help protect against intestinal disease such as colitis and colorectal cancer
  • Strawberries could have a role in preventing esophageal cancer

It appears berries could play an important role in your health. Dr. Devore concluded that “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.” That’s why women need berries, and don’t you forget it.

Devore EE et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology 2012 Apr 25. DOI:10.1002/ana.23594

Image: Wikimedia Commons