The best anti-aging elixir is… a bowl of strawberries! And if we also add other berries, such as blueberries, it's even better. In fact, different berries have been shown to protect different brain areas from inflammation and free radical damage, strengthening and improving memory, learning ability and executive functions. This emerges from recent scientific research published in the British Journal of Nutrition by an American team from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (Miller et al, BJN, 2021).
The aging brain and the role of nutrition
As we age our body loses the ability to protect itself from the damage of inflammation and free radicals. As a consequence, a deterioration of cognitive, motor and neuronal function may occur. However, studies have shown that some food choices can counteract the damage of aging processes and preserve some functions. Among these foods, berries undoubtedly emerge, rich in polyphenols and with an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. Previous studies carried out on animals have been able to show that the intake of strawberries could improve several parameters of brain health. And what happens to humans? This is where the study we are talking about today comes into play.
Strawberries and other berries to protect the brain
Scientists recruited 37 people, aged between 60 and 75 years. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to eat 300 grams of strawberries every day for 3 months. The second group had to take a placebo instead. At the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the experiment, the volunteers underwent tests to evaluate their cognitive function. Well, those who had taken the strawberries showed significant improvements in the execution of the tests. In particular, reaction times have improved, when asked to recognize words, and the ability to memorize the positions of objects and to move in space, planning a route, has improved, too. What has been observed can be traced back to an improvement in the hippocampus region. It is noteworthy that a previous study, conducted by the same research group, had shown that in humans the intake of blueberries is able to improve executive functions and not memory. Executive functions involve multiple functions such as planning actions, staying focused on something, even in the presence of distractions, and exhibiting self-control.
Therefore, this allowed scientists to hypothesize that different berries also act on different areas of the brain. In particular, it is believed that blueberry polyphenols act by protecting the frontal cortex while strawberry polyphenols protect the hippocampus. The conclusion is that a mix of berries is the ideal long life elixir, capable of acting on different brain regions, bringing benefits in several areas, from memory to executive function.
Other studies will follow to confirm the different action on the brain of the different types of berries. In particular, it will be interesting to observe the increase of specific polyphenols in particular regions of the brain following the intake of berries in order to trace the action of each fruit. For the moment, however, even if just at the beginning, the study is of vital importance as it allows us to understand how important berries are in the daily diet to protect against aging processes. Green light to strawberries therefore, if there is no allergy, but also to blueberries and why not to blackberries and raspberries, waiting to clarify their properties.