Boost your brain with a tasty berry
March 31st, 2014 by NHI
When pharmaceutical companies develop drugs to treat particular diseases, they usually try to manufacture a medication that produces a narrow effect that can be measured in clinical trials.
Holistic medicine and nutritional support don’t work that way. The whole foods that promote better health benefit many parts of the body. The nutrients in these foods don’t narrowly target one organ or one physical process.
For a great example, keep reading and I’ll tell you about a small berry that not only protects and nurtures the brain, but also helps promote heart health and shrinks your risk of diabetes – all at the same time.
Read on to find out more…
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Blueberries provide remarkable brain protection. When researchers from the University of Cincinnati fed blueberry juice to people in their 70s who were suffering early memory decline, they found that the juice significantly improved the subjects’ performance on learning and memory tests.i
The Cincinnati researchers report, “These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration.”
The people in the research consumed a fairly large amount of juice — more than 2 cups a day for two months. I guess some people might grow tired of drinking that much blueberry juice every day.
Not me. I eat fresh blueberries several mornings a week, all year long. The only times I miss are when they’re out of season. During the winter they’re shipped up from south of the equator, and to my mind those are even better than the locally grown ones during the summer.
Blueberries taste so good, I think probably a lot of people will agree with me that drinking blueberry juice daily is an easy way to boost their brain health. (The expense is another matter; they don’t come cheap. But considering the money people spend on things that are bad for them, a few bucks for something that’s fun AND beneficial shouldn’t pose a problem.)
The Power of Flavonoids
In England, scientists at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and the University of Reading got beneficial results similar to those of the Cincinnati group. They fed blueberries for three months to a group of seniors who were having trouble with their memories. What happened? The participants’ spatial working memory began to improve after three weeks on the blueberry-supplemented diet. The improvements were maintained during the entire experiment.
The English scientists attribute much of blueberries’ brain support to its flavonoids, a class of natural plant compounds that includes chemicals called anthocyanins and flavonols.
The researchers note that these chemicals cross the blood/brain barrier and improve the connection between the neurons that are responsible for remembering and learning.
They also demonstrated that the blueberry compounds speed up activation of signal proteins in the hippocampus, the brain area where learning and memory takes place.ii
According to researcher Jeremy Spencer, who is with the University of Reading, “Impaired or failing memory as we get older is one of life’s major inconveniences. Scientists have known of the potential health benefits of diets rich in fresh fruits for a long time. Our previous work had suggested that flavonoid compounds had some kind of effect on memory, but until now we had not known the potential mechanisms to account for this.”
Good for your heart and circulation, too
An added advantage to blueberries is the fact that they also help defend against heart problems and diabetes. A study at the University of Maine shows that daily doses of the fruit can decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome, the condition that often leads to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.iii
“The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a group of risk factors characterized by obesity, hypertension, inflammation, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction,” says researcher Klimis-Zacas, a professor of clinical nutrition. “We have previously documented the cardiovascular benefits of a polyphenol-rich wild blueberry in (an animal) model with impaired vascular health and high blood pressure.”
Health benefits like those should make blueberries required eating for anyone concerned about an aging mind and body.