Can Eating Berries Make You Smarter?

By: Bel Marra Health | Alzheimers | Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 12:29 AM

Eating Berries improve memoryA cup of berries a day could help to keep dementia away. Enjoying a serving or two of recognized brain foods on a daily basis could help to maintain brain health and mental performance. Aging is commonly associated with the deterioration of various parts of our body, including the capacity of our brain to retain and process information. Alzheimer’s disease is the most recognized brain disorder that affects elderly adults, characterized by a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions of the brain. In simple terms, Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the gradual loss or degeneration of memory and mental functions, resulting in major changes in behavior and performance. This affects not only the elderly patient, but also rest of the family, especially when the patient reaches the stage of being unable to recognize his or her spouse and children or remember where he or she lives.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, eating certain fruits resulted in an improvement in the mental performance of a group of study participants. The study consisted of approximately 447 elderly adults within the age range of 55 to 80 years old. The study participants were also classified to possess at least three risks for developing cardiovascular disease, including smoking, family history of heart disease, hypertension, and high blood cholesterol levels. The mental or brain health condition of the study participants were also assessed at the start of the five-year study. The type of food items consumed on a yearly basis was also collected through personal interviews.

The results of the study showed that the study participants who consumed brain foods rich in polyphenols, which are plant-derived chemicals that commonly present in berries, fruits, and nuts, presented better memory at the end of the study period. These brain foods were described to enhance the brain performance of the study participants, especially in remembering different types of information, including names, dates, and other details of events that they experienced. In addition, these brain foods also helped in preventing damage to various tissues of the body, including the brain, thus resulting in the maintenance of memory. The overall performance of the study participants who consumed more brain foods was also shown to be superior to those who preferred to consume meat-based diets.

Another method used by the researchers to determine the actual amount of brain foods consumed by the study participants was to determine the actual levels of polyphenols excreted in the urine. Polyphenols in consumed brain foods are eventually removed from the body through the urine, especially when these are conjugated with other molecules such as fatty acids and cholesterol. Polyphenols thus assist in removing molecules that may cause damage to the body, such as fats that could be deposited in the walls of blood vessels and nerve cells in the brain.

Aside from berries, polyphenols are also present in wine since these are derived from grapes and other classes of berries. Olive oil and walnuts are also considered good brain foods, containing polyphenols that enhance brain performance. The study also showed that eating walnuts showed the greatest mental performance in the study participants, as compared to other types of nuts. These participants were asked to take a simple memory test at the end of the study period and the scores of those who regularly ate walnuts far surpassed the memory scores and performance of those who consumed peanuts and almonds. An enhanced performance was also observed in study participants who regularly drink wine.

This research study showed that bioactive compounds such as polyphenols could be naturally derived from berries, wine, and walnuts, thus serving as brain foods to support memory and cognitive functioning of the brain during aging. These brain foods may also also enhance mental performance, thus decreasing memory loss and brain dysfunction.

Related Reading: Berries pack a sweet health punch

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