Eating richly colored, flavorful berries is good for your body, you don’t need an expert to tell you that. But they may be good for your brain as well based on some new findings. Many studies have documented the protective effect of berries against inflammation and they have also been shown to improve both behavior and cognitive function in stressed young lab rats. But the new research looked at the protective effects of berries on brain function, specifically the ability to clear away toxic accumulations, and is the result of efforts by researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
To conduct the research, the teams fed rats a berry diet for 2 months and then examined the brains of the rats after irradiation, a way to mimic aging in the lab. One group of rats was evaluated after 36 hours, the other after 30 days. After one month on the berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to a control group. It may be the protection came from the phytonutrients naturally present in berries.
Researchers looked at neurochemical changes in the brain, what’s known by doctors as autophagy, that regulates the synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components. It’s the way the brain has to get rid of toxic accumulations – a sort of natural housecleaning mechanism. Most disease of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s show a higher amount of toxic protein, as if this natural mechanism breaks down somehow.
The researchers are now doing a study in humans, using older people aged 60 to 75 years. There’s a lot of earlier work in animals that suggests the antioxidant compounds naturally in berries will protect the aging brain and perhaps reverse some of the behavioral deficiency. The experts are hoping the findings of the animal research will translate in the human research.
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Berries Good For The Brain Continued…
In the meantime, why not enjoy any of the nutrient rich berries available this season? Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are all splendidly colored and absolutely delicious fruits. Most grocery stores carry a wide variety of berries, fresh, frozen or canned. When buying fresh, look for ripe, colorful and firm berries with no sign of mold or soft spots. If it’s out of season, frozen berries are a great choice as they are often frozen soon after picking and keep most of their nutrients. Canned, so long as there is no added sugar are also a good way to enjoy this fruit.
Fresh berries should always be stored in the fridge to keep mold from growing on them. Don’t wash the berries until right before you’re going to use them. The best way to wash them is to put them in a mesh strainer and run them under cool water. If you store berries properly, most berries can last for up to two weeks, strawberries up to 7 days.
And while berries can do lots of good for your body, they are only one part of a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of sources of natural nutrients. Don’t get caught up in the “superfood” hype, as we still have not proven conclusively that the antioxidant properties naturally part of berries are responsible for good health.
The research was presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 annual meeting.
To your good health,