A review published online on January 23, 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry describes a multitude of positive effects for berries on neurologic function. "A growing body of preclinical and clinical research has identified neurological benefits associated with the consumption of berry fruits," write Marshall G. Miller and Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD of Tufts University in their introduction to the article. "In addition to their now well-known antioxidant effects, dietary supplementation with berry fruits also has direct effects on the brain. Intake of these fruits may help to prevent age-related neurodegeneration and resulting changes in cognitive and motor function."
Berries have antioxidant effects, such as that demonstrated for mulberry in Parkinson's disease. Wolfberry, also called gogi berry, may have direct neuroprotective effects that are independent of its antioxidant benefits. In animal studies, blueberries have been associated with a variety of brain benefits, including a reduction in age-related increases in nuclear factor-kappa beta. Aged rats given blueberries, cranberries or blackberries have better balance and control, and a reduction in amyloid beta has been observed in association with blueberry intake in mice bred to develop specific aspects of Alzheimer's disease. In humans with mild cognitive impairment, daily consumption of blueberry juice resulted in improved word list recall and better performance in comparison with subjects who receive a placebo.
"Given that neurodegeneration and cognitive decline are chronic processes, throughout adulthood, future research should also identify critical periods during which increased consumption of berry fruits is most effective and the extent to which berry fruits prevent or even reverse the deleterious effects of aging," the authors conclude. "Furthermore, the optimal dietary intake, necessary duration of supplementation, and longevity of the effects following the cessation of supplementation should also be explored."
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