As we age, one of the functions that can often deteriorate dramatically is our mental function - our brain power, if you will. The good news is, researchers may have discovered a way to prevent this kind of decline: Eat more berries.
That's right. According to research published in the American Chemical Society's (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, eating more blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits may help prevent age-related memory loss and other mental status changes.
In the journal article, Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, and Marshall G. Miller note that as we live longer on average, there are increasing concerns about the social and monetary costs of treating Alzheimer 's disease and other forms of mental decline. That concern will only grow as the U.S. population continues to age.
Keep your brain healthy and functioning as you age
According to the research, eating more berries can have benefits for the aging brains. "To analyze the strength of the evidence about berry fruits, they extensively reviewed cellular, animal and human studies on the topic," said a press release from the ACS.
A review of the data found that there was strong scientific evidence that berry fruits help the brain remain healthy in a number of ways. For example, berry fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, "compounds that protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals." In addition, research shows that berry fruits alter the manner in which neurons in the brain communicate.
"These changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition," said ACS, a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress.
"They suggest that further research will show whether these benefits are a result of individual compounds shared between berry fruits or whether the unique combinations of chemicals in each berry fruit simply have similar effects."
'Berry' good benefits
The ACS research isn't the first to suggest that antioxidants in berry fruits are beneficial to your overall health. The Global Healing Center also says berries are high in antioxidants and "have been shown to be some of the healthiest foods on the planet."
The antioxidants in berries and other fruits act as "scavengers" of free radicals, which create a destructive process on the cellular level, causing molecules within cells to become unstable, according to Dr. Edward Group.
"They may even be a big player in the formation of cancerous cells by a 'chain-reaction' effect, causing other cells to become damaged," he writes. "Because of the inherent instability of free-radicals, they try to attack other healthy cells to get stable themselves. This then causes the once-healthy cells to react in the same way, attacking others in [a] never-ending attempt for cellular stability."
But just like with everything else, some scientists and researchers say you should be careful not to overindulge in antioxidants.
"Too much of a good thing can be bad, and some scientists believe excessive amounts of antioxidants can overtax the immune system, hurting the body's ability to repair itself," says Robert Wildman, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., a nutritional expert.
by: J. D. Heyes
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