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Berries Get New Attention for Brain-Boosting Benefits

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We all know that berries pack a powerful nutritional punch. Compared to other fruit and vegetable sources, they have dense amounts of polyphenols, a plant-based compound (phytonutrient) shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Here’s another reason to include a handful of berries with your meals: A study released in April found that polyphenol-rich blueberries and strawberries may protect the brain against common signs of aging, including mental decline and forgetfulness.

Researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) discovered that the brains of laboratory rats that were on a blueberry and strawberry diet experienced increased levels of autophagy – a natural process in which the brain clears out accumulated toxic proteins – after radiation exposure. (Radiation was used to mimic aging.) The study concluded that the phytonutrients found in berries may be the reason why berry-fed rats had less toxins in their brains compared to their non-berry-fed counterparts.

We know that age-related brain disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are – at least in part – the result of toxic protein accumulation in the brain. If this study can be successfully repeated in humans, it could have a significant impact on how we approach prevention against these devastating brain diseases that currently have no cure.

This is by no means the first scientific look into the potential relationship between phytonutrients in berries and brain aging. A year ago, another study found that women who ate more blueberries and strawberries appeared to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

My take: Why not include more berries in your diet now? With berry season starting in June and continuing through fall, there’s no better time to “pick” this healthy habit. In addition to their potential brain-protecting benefits, blueberries are rich in vitamin C (a one-cup serving provides almost 25 percent of an adult’s daily requirement), fiber and manganese. Eight strawberries provide more vitamin C than an orange. And don’t forget blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and boysenberries, too.

Be sure to read the ingredients and nutrition labels of dried berries and berry-flavored juices. They often contain added sugar or other sweeteners, artificial flavors and/or preservatives. Fresh fruit – and certified organic, if possible – is best.

Mind your health,

Dr. Keith Black

Last Updated:5/23/2013
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Date: 10.12.2018, 11:58 / Views: 44391