Memory loss and cognitive decline are common signs of brain aging. Scientists are searching for different strategies to boost brain function and reduce mental decline. In a recent study, scientists have found that berries could keep the brain active despite increase in age.
Berries for healthy brain
Researchers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston have observed blueberry, strawberry, acai berry or blackberry could improve cognitive health.
Berries prevent brain inflammation and oxidative stress
As we age, our body’s ability to prevent oxidative damage and inflammation slows down considerably. This leaves an elderly person vulnerable to a large number of health disorders including heart diseases, cancers and degeneration of brain tissues.
Berries, researchers have found, contain large amounts of antioxidant compounds known as polyphenolics that could protect the aging body from inflammation and oxidative stress.
Berries enhance house cleaning function of the brain
In addition, age related decline in activities of the nervous system develops due to poor autophagy or the natural ‘house cleaning’ process of the brain. Cells known as microglia are associated with the brain’s house cleaning process.
Microglia removes and recycles the biochemical debris, which are bad for the cognitive health. In the aging brain, microglia could not perform its normal functions, resulting in accumulation of biochemical wastes in the brain.
Studies have shown that to make matters worse for the brain, the microglia begins to function abnormally, damaging the healthy cells of the brain. Researchers have observed that polyphenolics present in berries could restore the normal functions of the microglia. Berry extracts inhibit the activities of proteins that slow down the house cleaning process of the brain.
In a previous study, researchers found that a diet containing 2 per cent antioxidant rich berry extract could reverse age related decline in nerve functions. Extracts of strawberries, blackberries or blueberries could improve learning skills and memory.
Researchers believe that besides berries, other fruits and vegetables containing polyphenolics are equally good for the aging brain. Walnuts are rich sources of this antioxidant compound. Yellow, orange, red and blue colored fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidant compounds known as anthocyanins are also beneficial for the aging brain.