Eating berries appears to reduce cognitive decline in older adults. In a new study published by the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, the results suggest that cognitive decline can be delayed in the elderly by up to two and a half years by consuming berries.
The effect is being attributed to flavonoids, which are compounds in plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Scientists believe that cognitive functioning is impaired by stress and inflammation, thus accounting for the benefit of foods containing high quantities of flavonoids.
Previous studies done on animals have shown that flavonoids increase cognitive function.
“As the U.S. population ages, understanding the health issues facing this group becomes increasingly important,” said Dr. Elizabeth Devore with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. “Our study examined whether greater intake of berries could slow rates of cognitive decline.”
The research was done by using data from the Nurse’s Health Study, a study done of 121,700 female nurses aged between 35 and 50. Since 1980, they have been surveyed on the food they consume. From 1990 to 2001, 16,010 of the nurses aged 70 years or older were tested for cognitive function.
From the analysis, increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries appears to slow cognitive decline. The more flavonoids consumed, the more it seemed to reduce cognitive decline.
“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women,” notes Dr. Devore. “Our findings have significant public health implications, as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”