Its spring, which means it’s the season for fresh, juicy berries. And that’s good news for your brain. According to new research, eating greater amounts of flavonoid berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, could delay cognitive aging by years.
As you may know, flavonoids are compounds found in fruits that have been linked to disease prevention through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Berries are particularly high in a type of flavonoid called anthocyanidins, which can cross the blood–brain barrier to areas of learning and memory.
A research team of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) conducted a large-scale study to further examine the beneficial effects of flavonoid berries on the brain. Over more than three decades, the team reviewed the eating habits of 16,000 women participating in the Nurses Health Study. During their 50s and 60s, every four years the women answered questions by phone about what they ate. And in their 70s, they came into the lab for six different cognitive function tests.
After analyzing data on the participants’ cognitive function, as well as their food consumption over the years, researchers concluded that women with highest intake of berries delayed their cognitive aging by as much as two-and-a-half years.
“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women,” says lead author Elizabeth Devore. “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults.”
While berries appeared to help memory the most, other foods rich in flavonoids such as red wine, may also be helpful for memory, according to Dr. Devore. Cheers to that!
Devore, E., Kang, J., Breteler, M., & 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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