Life Extension Magazine September 2008
The Disease-Fighting Power of Berries
By Alison Cherlet
By Alison Cherlet
Scientists now agree that one of the best ways to protect against the killer diseases of aging is to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Yet even the scarce few who manage to consume the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables may not be obtaining enough antioxidant protection to ward off cancer, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease. The reason is that it requires about ten daily servings of typically consumed fruits and vegetables to obtain the level of antioxidant protection recommended by USDA scientists.1
Fortunately, berries and other richly colored plants possess supercharged antioxidant power, allowing you to dramatically boost your levels of antioxidant protection. By stoking up the body’s defenses against damaging free radicals, berries and other richly colored foods provide unprecedented protective effects.2
A Rainbow of Health Benefits
During a typical mealtime, take a look at your plate. If you’re not seeing a rainbow of color, you may be missing out on some major disease-preventing nutrients. Leading physicians are advising that as many richly colored fruits and vegetables as possible be consumed in order to safeguard our health.
Why all the fuss about color? Because a wealth of scientific studies have demonstrated that the natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant hues offer remarkable health benefits. A major class of compounds in this category is the flavonoids. Powerful antioxidants, flavonoids are linked with health benefits that include protection from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, and stroke, to name just a few.1
Antioxidants provide health benefits by subduing free radicals, which play a role in the development of many age-related diseases. The antioxidant value of a food can be estimated using a measure called oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC. Foods with a higher ORAC value possess a higher ability to quench dangerous oxygen free radicals in the test tube.2 Scientists have found that boosting your daily intake of foods with high ORAC values increases the body’s plasma and tissue antioxidant protection, guarding your body’s tissues against the onslaught of free radicals that can lead to decay and disease.1,2
Anthocyanins Fight Disease
One of nature’s most potent classes of flavonoids is the anthocyanins. These compounds have some of the highest ORAC values recorded among the compounds found in fruits and vegetables. They are responsible for the deep colors of berries, and as a rule of thumb, the more deeply colored your fruits and vegetables, the more nutrient-packed they are.
Worldwide, studies with anthocyanins and other compounds derived from berries and other fruits have demonstrated their benefits in fighting such conditions as cancer,3 diabetes,4,5 arthritis, and allergies by reducing inflammation.6 They are particularly effective at counteracting the effects of aging, showing benefits against several age-related diseases, particularly neurological disorders7 such as Alzheimer’s disease8 and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in the elderly).9 Anthocyanin-rich fruit extracts also directly protect blood vessels,10 reduce blood pressure,11 and lower cholesterol12—offering protection against cardiovascular disease.13 Some studies have even linked berry extract with protection against osteoporosis.14 The list starting on the next column reveals anthocyanin-rich foods and their major health benefits.
Richly colored fruits and vegetables provide nature’s most abundant sources of disease-preventive compounds. By regularly consuming these nutritional powerhouses, you can help guard your cells against the daily onslaught of free radicals and fortify your body’s defenses against ailments ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cognitive decline and macular degeneration.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.
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