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Berries can keep your brain sharp


April 29, 2012

Eating two servings of strawberries and blueberries a day can delay memory decline in older women (Photo: Shutterstock)

Eating two servings of strawberries and blueberries a day can delay memory decline in older women (Photo: Shutterstock)

Everyone knows that strawberries and blueberries are good for you. Now a new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has found that eating as little as two servings of flavonoid-rich strawberries and/or blueberries a week can delay memory decline in older women by over two years.

The research team used data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which involved more than 120,000 registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55. The nurses completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976, and have been surveyed every four years since regarding their eating habits. Starting in 1995, memory was tested in participants older than 70 every two years. Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74.

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

So if you eat your berries ... uhhh... you'll remember to eat your berries!

Source: Brigham and Women's Hospital

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

What were the non-berry nurses eating? An all pancake diet? Other things rich in flavonoids, like apples, apricots, pears, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes? "Increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification" from_what "to reduce memory decline"?

I hope the research was more meaningful than this report of it.

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For this kind of research to be taken seriously, you need to disclose who funded the research. The Strawberry & Blueberry Growers' Association? Then you also have to weed out the possibility that granny simply REMEMBERED to buy strawberries when grocery shopping.

One other message to Boomers, like myself. Life is a fatal disease, so immortality is not yours.


S4C if you follow the link you wil see the research funding is disclosed and yes "This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (P01 CA87969) and the California Strawberry Commission" does give pause but it it not necessarily the fatal flaw in this data mining exercise (hard to call it research).

The flaw as with any epidemiological survey is that you simply cannot and must not draw conclusions about one item in a sea of other variables. As Tim points out there is no data about what the non berry eating cohort did. Perhaps they smoked, drank and free based heroin more than the strawberry eaters did. We don't know. We also don't know as the author tells us "Everyone knows that strawberries and blueberries are good for you" (ugh) what other supposedly healthy diet and lifestyle choices the berry eaters chose on the "everyone knows principle" over other less health conscious behaviours of the rest who chose not to eat berries despite 'everyone knowing' that isn't good for you. It is just as possible that eating strawberries and blueberries is actually bad for you but that one of the other associated diet/lifestyle choices was sufficiently 'good' to more than make up for the harm caused by berries.

The author should be at least reminded that these "researchers" have found nothing apart from a hypothesis that needs testing once they arrive at a proposed cause of the effect they say exists. Mr Dodson should certainly never again use the phrase "everyone knows" in a sentence about the very uncertain science of nutrition.

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