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Phytonutrient-Rich Berries Boost Brain FunctionPhytonutrient-Rich Berries Boost Brain Function

April 22, 2013

2 Min Read
Phytonutrient-Rich Berries Boost Brain Function

BOSTONIndividuals who consume a diet rich in berries may have improved behavior and cognitive function, according to new research presented at the American Society for Nutrition's Experimental Biology 2013 meeting. The finding support previous research about the protective effects of phytonutrient-rich berries against inflammation.

Researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and University of Maryland Baltimore County evaluated the protective effects of berries on brain function, specifically the ability of the brain to clear toxic accumulation. They fed rats a berry diet for two months and then looked at their brains after irradiation, a model for accelerated aging. All of the rats were fed berries two months prior to radiation and then divided into two groupsone was evaluated after 36 hours of radiation and the other after 30 days.

After 30 days on the same berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to control," said investigator Shibu Poulose, Ph.D. We saw significant benefits to diets with both of the berries, and speculate it is due to the phytonutrients present."

The researchers looked at neurochemical changes in the brain, in particular what is known as autophagy, which can regulate the synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components. It is also the way in which the brain clears toxic accumulations.

Most diseases of the brain such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons have shown an increased amount of toxic protein. Berries seem to promote autophagy, the brains natural housekeeping mechanism, thereby reducing the toxic accumulation," Poulose said.

The researchers currently are conducting a human study in older people ages 60 to 75 years. We have a lot of animal work that suggests these compounds will protect the aged brain and reverse some of behavioral deficits. We are hoping it will translate to human studies as well," said Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, the lead investigator conducting the human study.

Research is discovering berries pack a nutritional punch due to their vitamin, fiber and antioxidant content. Check out the Berry Nutrition slideshow on Food Product Design to learn more about these superfruits.

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