Scientists Confirm Brain’s Natural Source for Healthy Aging

Berries2 Scientists on Monday reported the first evidence that eating blueberries, strawberries, acai berries, and possibly walnuts may help the aging brain stay healthy in a crucial but previously unrecognized way. Their study concluded that berries activate the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism, which cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and other mental decline.
It involves a reduction in the brain’s natural house-cleaning process. Cells called microglia are the housekeepers. In a process called autophagy, they remove and recycle biochemical debris that otherwise would interfere with brain function.

“But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up,” researcher Shibu Poulose, a molecular biologist with the USDA explained. “In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain. Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries.”

Poulose said the study provides further evidence to eat foods rich in polyphenolics. Although berries and walnuts are rich sources, many other fruits and vegetables contain these chemicals — especially those with deep red, orange, or blue colors. Those colors come from pigments termed anthocyanins that are good antioxidants. He emphasized the importance of consuming the whole fruit, which contains the full range of hundreds of healthful chemicals. Frozen berries, which are available year round, also are excellent sources of polyphenolics, he added.

Poulose said previous research suggested that one factor involved in aging is a steady decline in the body’s ability to protect itself against inflammation and oxidative damage. This leaves people vulnerable to degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders.

Their past studies, for instance, showed that old laboratory rats fed for two months on diets containing 2 percent high-antioxidant strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry extract showed a reversal of age-related deficits in nerve function and behavior that involves learning and remembering.

More info: American Chemical Society news

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