Okay. So it isn’t exactly breaking news that as we age, our brains don’t seem to work like they used to. But there have been amazing breakthroughs in recent years that help prevent and slow down the aging process.
And some are as small as a simple dietary addition. Like this one…
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School recently revealed what they call “exciting”1 new findings. Their study suggests that eating one or more servings of a certain food each week may help slow cognitive degeneration by several years.
Their study was one of the largest and longest of its kind.2
Led by Dr. Elizabeth Devore and published in the Annals of Neurology,3 it included more than 16,000 women. And it began in 1980. Every four years researchers questioned the women about what they ate. Cognitive function was also assessed at two-year intervals.
And the results…
So what is this brain food?
It may not seem like new news. But Dr. Devore ensures this study is worthy. “This is the first study of its kind – the first large, epidemiologic study of berry intake in relation to memory decline.”
Granted, this was an observational study. So you need to be at least a little cautious of the results. Scientists have to rely on subjects’ memories. Can you remember what you ate last week? What about four years ago? Also for this study, other lifestyle characteristics such as physical activity and income, might have influenced rates of memory decline.
But after adjusting for those factors scientists still found a higher consumption of berries plays a part in the delay of cognitive aging. By up to two and a half years. Now that’s significant…
“If you can delay the onset by six months, let alone two or more years, the overall global impact on public health is immeasurable,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, from the University of Miami School of Medicine. Dr. Isaacson was not part of the study.
Berries have a high content of antioxidants. Researchers say that flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, appear to be the link here.
Flavonoids fight inflammation and oxidation. Processes that affect aging brain cells. And previous studies have shown that a particular flavonoid called anthocyanidin is able to seep through blood into regions of the brain that control memory.
The women in the study didn’t even have to eat large amounts of berries. But they still showed positive results. Just half a cup of blueberries or a cup of strawberries a week showed memory improvement. That’s a small (and delicious) price to pay to improve your quality of life so drastically.
For more confirmation… in another recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that antioxidants in blueberries improved cognition in rodents.4
And here’s the thing… when it comes to adding berries to your diet, you can’t start too soon. The scary truth is that cognitive decline starts sooner than we thought. A study published in the British Medical Journal showed cognitive skills declining in people as young as 45.5
Symptoms of decline usually begin with a person’s memory and thinking skills.6 They begin to forget things as simple as appointments and conversations they had. They have difficulty completing tasks or making decisions. These simple things are the early signs of decline.
People with cognitive decline can be at risk for developing dementia and even Alzheimer’s.
But studies such as Dr. Devore’s are showing great hope in delaying the onset of such diseases. Just by eating a handful of berries you could be putting a protective shield around your brain.
It is still unknown exactly how long one must eat a flavonoid-rich diet in order to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s. “But people can begin to change what they eat tomorrow and have an incremental change on their brain,” said Dr. Isaacson.
You can buy berries fresh or frozen. But as always, go for organic. Add a handful of blueberries to your morning oatmeal. Snack on a cup of strawberries. Top off your yogurt with raspberries. It’s that easy. Your healthy brain will thank you for it.