Big Study Says Berries Could Slow Brain’s Decline

May 1, 2012

A large-scale U.S. epidemiological study has linked high consumption of berries to a delay in cognitive aging up to 2.5 years.

A large-scale U.S. epidemiological study has linked high consumption of berries to a delay in cognitive aging up to 2.5 years.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School looked at food frequency trends (particularly berries in the diet) and cognitive assessments from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest U.S. epidemiological studies ever conducted on women’s health. Their research covers over 16,000 participants from the study, which began in 1980.

The findings, now available in the journal Annals of Neurology, indicate that a greater intake of blueberries and/or strawberries may delay cognitive aging to an extent equivalent to 1.5–­­2.5 human years.

Any cognitive support provided by berries is, the researchers presume, likely due to high levels of anthocyanidins and flavonoids in berries. These antioxidant-like compounds have been linked to cognitive benefits in clinical trials before.

“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women,” said Elizabeth Devore, a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”