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Berries keep your brain sharp

A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that certain berries may delay memory decline in older women

Berries are good for you, that's no secret. But can strawberries and blueberries actually keep your brain sharp in old age? A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) finds that a high intake of flavonoid rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, over time, can delay memory decline in older women by 2.5 years.

This study is published by Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, on April 26, 2012.

"What makes our study unique is the amount of data we analyzed over such a long period of time. No other berry study has been conducted on such a large scale," explained Elizabeth Devore, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH, who is the lead author on this study. "Among women who consumed 2 or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week we saw a modest reduction in memory decline. This effect appears to be attainable with relatively simple dietary modifications."

The research team used data from the Nurses' Health Study—a cohort of 121,700 female, registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55—who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976. Since 1980, participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption. Between 1995 and 2001, memory was measured in 16,010 subjects over the age of 70 years, at 2-year intervals. Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74 and mean body mass index of 26.

Findings show that increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries was associated with a slower rate of memory decline in older women. A greater intake of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids was also associated with reduced memory decline. Researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake had delayed memory decline by up to 2.5 years.

"We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women," notes Dr. Devore. "Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults."

This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (P01 CA87969) and the California Strawberry Commission. The study was independently controlled by the investigators who performed the data analysis.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. BWH is the home of the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), , BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 900 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $537 M in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information about BWH, please visit

Jessica Maki | EurekAlert!
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