Eating more berries may reduce cognitive decline in the elderly, US research finding

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th April 2012

Cognitive aging could be delayed by up to two and a half years in elderly people who consume greater amounts of the blueberries and strawberries, according to a study published in today’s journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society.

The research, from Harvard Medical School, used data from the Nurses’ Health Study — a cohort of 121,700 female, registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976.

The study found that fruits that are high in flavonoids, appear to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.

Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that generally have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Previous studies of the positive effects of flavonoids, particularly anthocyanidins, are limited to animal models or very small trials in older persons, but have shown greater consumption of foods with these compounds improve cognitive function.

Since 1980 participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption. Between 1995 and 2001, cognitive function was measured in 16,010 subjects over the age of 70 years, at two-year intervals.

Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74 and mean body mass index of 26.

The researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake delayed cognitive aging by up to two and a half years.

The authors caution that while they did control for other health factors in the modeling, they cannot rule out the possibility that the preserved cognition in those who eat more berries may be also influenced by other lifestyle choices, such as exercising more.

Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Elizabeth Devore said, “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”