Brain “Cleaners” Essential to Good Mental Health
Blueberries may be the single most powerful brain-preserving food in the world. Brand new research shows that they don’t just protect your brain… but also help to clean its mental pathways.
There are dozens of studies showing how they power mental health… and the research is so exciting that some scientists are calling them “brain berries.”
This simple superfood may really combat the aging process… and doctors say you should be eating them every day. Even better… the most recent research shows that combining them with certain other foods creates an unbeatable cocktail of brain-boosting benefits.
Why Our Brains Age
As we age, our intellectual agility slows down. Mental clarity loses sharpness. And memory becomes muddled. Most experts agree that this decline is often caused by oxidative stress and free radical damage to the brain.
“Oxidative stress and inflammation are the evil twins of brain aging,” said Tufts University doctor James A. Joseph.
During the national meeting of the American Chemical Society last week, scientists revealed why our brains decay with age. Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., delivered the report – based on a ground-breaking new study. Dr. Poulose headed up the project for the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston.
He worked with the renowned Dr. Joseph – a leader in the field who pioneered research on how antioxidants in fruits and nuts prevent cognitive decline – on the study prior to Joseph’s death earlier this summer.
Joseph’s previous research showed that inflammation and oxidative damage are key factors in both physical and mental decline. This new research shows another crucial and previously unknown factor in mental decline. And confirms that one food – above all others – can help you combat that decline.
When we are young, our brains produce cells called microglia. These cells – through a process called autophagy – remove and recycle biochemical debris. These brain “cleaners” sweep away mental debris that would otherwise interfere with brain function.
However, as we get older, so do our brain “cleaners.” They become less effective… and eventually stop working altogether. When that happens, “debris builds up,” says Dr. Poulose. And that interferes with clear thinking.
Worse, those old brain “cleaners” – responding to the accumulation of debris – begin to damage the healthy cells in the brain.
Poulose and Joseph used cultures of mouse brain cells to investigate the process. They found that a certain protein shuts down the autophagy process.
And once they identified the cause, they were able to investigate a possible cure.
Combating the Brain Drain
Dr. Joseph was convinced that antioxidants could help counter the effect of mental aging. He did several ground-breaking studies on the subject.
Past studies showed that aging lab rats could reverse the effects of mental aging by eating a diet rich in antioxidants… namely strawberries and blueberries. Joseph’s studies showed compelling proof that those rats enjoyed major improvements in nerve function, learning, and memory.
He published a landmark study in 1999 in the Journal of Neuroscience which revealed that blueberries reversed mental aging. He took four groups of rats and fed them a normal diet. Three of the groups were given strawberry, spinach, or blueberry extracts. He tested the rats for coordination and mental functioning and followed the results over 18 weeks.
The blueberry group performed best on the coordination tests and showed improved neuron functioning which led him to nickname blueberries “brain-berries.”
Dr. James believed that blueberries are effective because they are so rich in antioxidants. And antioxidants limit cell damage created by free radicals… and repair damage created by oxidative stress.
He also noted that blueberries function as anti-inflammatory agents to protect brain health.
Since his discoveries, a wealth of studies have supported his findings.
Blueberries Protect Brain Power
The new study – revealed just last week – shows that blueberries are key to powering up your natural “brain” cleaners. Researchers fed lab rats with blueberry extracts and found they inhibited the protein which shuts down the autophagy process.
“Polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect,” said Dr. Poulose. “They restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries.”
Dr. Poulose told conference members that the study offers further evidence of the benefits of eating polyphenolic-rich foods.
He noted that the best source is blueberries, followed by related fruits such as strawberries and raspberries. He also pointed out walnuts as a rich source, as well as other fruits and vegetables with deep red, orange, or blue colors. That’s because these colors come from pigments termed “anthocyanins” that are good antioxidants.
When you eat brain-rich foods is almost as important as what you eat. According to Elizabeth Somer, M.A., healthy brain function requires a healthy breakfast. She’s a registered dietitian with over 25 years of experience.
Breakfast is important because it delivers fuel to the brain after fasting all night. A good breakfast promotes better mental clarity, improved memory, and quicker reactions.
She says lunch should be light but rich in protein, fruit, and veggies. And you should aim to pack in five to nine servings of fruits and veggies to get those all-important antioxidants.
Protect Your Brain
Plenty of research shows that blueberries are your best brain protectors. But they can be even more powerful when you combine them with specific foods that are rich in fats.
As Dr. Poulose noted, you should try eating them with walnuts. That’s because walnuts are rich in both antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Taken together, these two simple foods restore flexibility in your brain cell membranes. And that’s essential because every thought you have begins in those membranes.
As we get older, brain cell membranes become rigid… slowing thought processes… so it’s important to eat foods that keep them flexible.
“Polyphenols in berries and fatty acids in walnuts fluidize the cell membrane,” said Dr. Joseph. “They make it responsive to a wide array of signals.”
Walnuts also block cell inflammation, which has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Reducing inflammation promotes better mental function and might even reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Dr. Joseph, “All this is reversible. Adding walnuts and berries to the diet could delay the onset of aging.”
So it’s smart to create your own pre-packed combo mixes. They deliver super benefits and are easy to snack on anytime or anywhere. So even on busy days you can get those all-important antioxidants.
Try mixing blackberries and almonds. They’re both packed with antioxidants. Or try strawberries, pecans, and green tea. All three are rich in antioxidants and make for a super brain-boosting combo.
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