May 312012

Berries, they’re not just for breakfast anymore.

In a study published last month in the Annals of Neurology, researchers  reported that consumption of berries and flavonoids showed a slower rate of cognitive decline in women aged 70 and older.* Using data from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study of 122,000 registered nurses, the researchers conducted assessments on 16,010 women.

The Nurses Health Study began in 1976. Every four years they were questioned on their eating habits. Between 1995 and 2001, more than 16,000 women aged 70 and older underwent memory testing. The researchers at Brigham Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, Germany found that greater ingestion of blueberries and strawberries correlated with slower rates of cognitive decline for up to 2.5 years. The women who showed the most improvement consumed two or more servings of the berries each week.

Berries contain a particularly high amount of flavonoids called anthocyanidins that are capable of crossing the blood brain barrier and localizing themselves in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known for memory and learning. Investigational drugs and other alternative therapies often fail because they cannot cross the blood brain barrier or reach the hippocampus.

Flavonoids are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics which can benefit the brain. The study’s authors acknowledge that previous small trials of berry supplementation have shown positive results as well. In some earlier non-related studies inflammation and stress have been shown to contribute to a reduction in brain functioning. Increasing flavonoid consumption might slow these harmful effects, but more study is needed to test this hypothesis.

The authors acknowledge that this was an observational study that relied on accurate dietary reporting from the nurses. In addition they do not know if the results would apply equally to men since all of the people they studied were female. For the future the authors recommend that men be part of the cohort. Finally, they encourage older adults to consume berries as they offer an easy dietary modification that may delay memory decline and will not cause harm.

*Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M. B. and Grodstein, F. (2012), Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol.. doi: 10.1002/ana.23594

Jeffree Itrich, M.S.W., M.J.
Sr. Clinical Trials Communications & Recruitment Specialist
Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study
University of California San Diego

This post originally appeared in Alzheimer’s Insights, an ADCS Blog.

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  5 Responses to “Why Berries May Delay Memory Decline”

  1. I agree that berries may decline the loss of memory with alzheimer. That is why my husband and I take the Triangle of Life, from Sisel, it is Eternity, SpectraMaxx and Fucoydon, also we take TS-X. We are being proactive in hopefully delaying being afflicted with alzheimer, as my mother-in-law has alzheimer's and I am hoping my husband does not get this horrible disease. Maybe if the medical community would look into the science of our bodies and be proactive instead of reactive alot of these illnesses and diseases would not happen to us.

    • Lets hope there is something to this, there is also research on turmeric, the spice, which I have been taking for three years. My Mom is a healthy 97 year old, a wonderful person who is in an alzheimer center, monthly meetings have helped me understand this horrible desease and I pray for a cure and that I dont get this desease. My thoughts are with you and your husband.

  2. The brain is declining for as long as 20 years before the outward symptoms appear. I don't understand what this sort of observation tells us…. When did the folks start eatinng berries and how long before they turned 70? This kind of information just confounds me!

  3. I heard that berries are very good to eat to slowing down memory lost. The blue berries are the best, you can help to boost the brain with GINKOBILOBA TEA. too. I drink a lot of this tea and I know that is helping me a lot with the memory .
    I don't have this condiion of Alzheimer but I have notice that I forgetting things.
    I want to know if Alzheimer is a generativei.llness. My father had it and my brother is forgetting things easily too.

  4. I read so much about this disease . Over load on info sometimes. My thougth on this..if it might help…why not give it a try. Starting early in life seems to be the key . My mother inlaw has this horrible disease., which I hate . My sister in law, my husband and i are her only caregivers . Its getting rough. I know that there is such a high risk for my husband, not only does his mother have it, but her brother and 2 sisters have also had this.Just one day..ooppps…correction….just one moment at a time…this is our life

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