Brain Foods: Berries Provide Flavonoids and Antioxidants, and Appear to Help Support Improved Memory and Cognition
Contrary to popular belief, not all foods that taste good are bad for you. Consumption of berries — particularly dark ones such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, Concord grapes, and blackberries — have been shown to support brain health, according to numerous studies.
Grape Juice, Berries, and Walnuts Affect Brain Aging and Behavior1
Pharmacists should have no problem recommending these delicious fruits to clients who inquire about ways to stay mentally sharp.
A greater intake of high-antioxidant foods such as berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts may increase “health span” and enhance cognitive and motor function in aging, notes a 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research Service.
The beneficial effects of berries seen in animal studies appear to involve four factors, according to USDA researchers: (1) increases in the activation of protein pathways involved in cognitive function, (2) free radical scavenging, (3) activation of protective signals, and (4) inhibition of stress signals.
The study also noted that collaborative findings indicate blueberry or Concord grape juice supplementation in humans with mild cognitive impairment increased verbal memory performance.
The results indicate that several aspects of learning and memory were improved in the blueberry juice-supplemented humans, the study said. These included list recall, paired associate learning, and intrusion errors, i.e., when a person reports information that was not among a set of original materials.
A significant body of additional research over the past decade supports such findings.
According to one 2012 study, individuals who ate berries high in flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins, demonstrated improved cognition.
Another review of various studies found that flavonoids and polyphenols from berries accumulate in the brain following long-term consumption. Their effects on cognition may be due to the direct interaction of polyphenols with aging neurons, which may reduce the impact of stress-related cellular signals and increase the capacity of neurons to maintain proper functioning during aging, according to the review.
Another study cited evidence that flavonoids, most commonly in fruits such as apples, berries and citrus, may exert a particularly powerful action on cognition, and may help maintain memory and learning. The benefits of flavonoids appear to stem from several different effects on the brain, researchers found. These include a potential to support the health of neurons.
Still another study noted the benefits of flavonoids in fruits and berries are thought to be underpinned by several distinct processes, including support for peripheral and cerebral blood flow.
However the benefits are derived, the evidence appears clear that berries are a super brain food, and they should be a consistent part of one’s daily diet.