Berries are often touted for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are properties important to mental performance as oxidative stress and inflammation can impair cognitive function. However, in a recent study* the powerful presence of flavonoids, more specifically anthocyanidins, in both blueberries and strawberries are proving to be even more important for maintaining your mental power.
Anthocyanidins are a class of flavonoid shown to actively cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in areas of learning and memory – or the hippocampus. Such localization of flavonoids helps deliver the neuroprotective powers of the molecules exactly where they are needed – thus enhancing neuronal function and stimulating neurogenesis in the learning and memory centers of the brain.
In a study recently published by the American Neurological Association, nearly 20,000 women were monitored over the course of 30+ years to understand the impact of diet on cognitive decline. Within the study, blueberries and strawberries were identified as the top contributors to anthocyanidins intake in humans. After adjusting for age and education, it was shown that greater consumption of both blueberries (1+ servings per week) and strawberries (2+ servings per week) resulted in significantly slower decline in cognitive function over time. In fact, those women with higher berry intake in the study appeared to have delayed cognitive aging by up to 2 ½ years.
So grab some blueberries and strawberries this week at your local farmers’ market. In addition to being delicious this time of year, you will be keeping your brain sharp and healthy!
*Devore, Kang, Breteler, Grodstein: Berries and Cognitive Decline (2012)