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The study, conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Devore with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., suggests cognitive decline can be delayed up to 2.5 years in elderly women who eat more flavonoid and antioxidant-rich berries.
“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries slowed progression of cognitive 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 test cognition protection in older adults.”
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, cognitive function 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 slows cognitive decline in older women. A greater intake of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids was also associated with reduced cognitive degeneration.
Researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake delayed cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. The authors caution that while they did control for other health factors in the modeling, they cannot rule out the possibility that the preserved cognition in those who eat more berries may be also influenced by other lifestyle choices, such as exercising more.