Recent research published in Annals of Neurology and lead by Elizabeth Devore and her team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that women who eat more berries have a slower rate of age-related memory loss than those who do not.
The study began in 1980 and followed Nurses’ Health Study Participants via questionnaire administered every four years. Between 1995-2001, the researches measured the cognitive function of over 16,000 women over 70 years of age. Cognitive function was measured via three phone interviews at two year intervals. The phone interviews consisted of asking participants to remember details from a paragraph read to them or from a list of words or numbers. It was found that women who consumed more berries experienced a slower decline in mental function that averaged out to about 2 1/2 years. Furthermore, it was found that a higher intake of total anthocyanidins and flavonoids was associated with a decreased rate of cognitive decline.
The women in this study did not eat large quantities of berries each day. In fact, memory improvement was noted with only 1/2 cup of blueberry consumption or 1 cup total strawberry consumption per week. It was also noted that women who ate more berries, tended to exercise more and be of a higher income. However, even after adjusting for those confounding factors, it was still found that greater berry consumption was significantly associated with improved memory and brain function.
Previous studies have shown similar results. A study published May 2005 in the Annals of Neruology showed that increased consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with a significantly slower loss of memory and cognitive function. Fruit and vegetables are thought to help prevent age-related memory loss and cognitive decline due to their polyphenol component. Studies conducted on rodents have shown that certain plant polyphenols from grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and plums can improve brain function. In fact, studies have shown that blueberry extracts can protect rats bred to develop brain changes similar to Alzheimer’s Disease from memory decline. Blueberries are thought to be so effective because they contain anthocyanidins, an anti-oxidant which helps move blood into the brain. Human studies have shown that adding blueberry juice to the diet each day can improve memory.
Affording quality produce
Blueberries, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables aren’t just important for preventing memory decline. There are a whole host of studies showing the protective effects of eating lots of fruits and vegetables against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other serious illness. If possible, it is best to consume organic fruits and vegetables, as berries especially tend to be very high in pesticides. Since organic berries are very expensive, the cheapest way is to either grow your own or buy from a local, organic farm. Berries and other fruits and vegetables can be easily frozen or canned for consumption when they are of season. While organic, quality produce is more expensive, the health benefits and decreased medical costs down the line are more than worth it.
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