Eating berries can halt dementia for 2½ years, say experts

Flavonoids in blueberries help combat dementia
Flavonoids in blueberries help combat dementia
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EATING half a cup of blueberries and one cup of strawberries a week can help stave off dementia, scientists have found.

A US study has found that eating 75 grams of blueberries and 150 grams of strawberries every week can help delay the onset of cognitive ageing by two and a half years.

Both fruits are rich in flavonoids, compounds found in plants which are rich in antioxidants and have powerful anti- inflammatory properties.

Experts believe that stress and inflammation contribute to dementia, and that flavonoids could help counter the effect, according to a report in the Annals of Neurology journal.

Though previous research has pointed towards the anti-ageing benefits of berries, until now studies have been limited to animal models or small-scale trials in the elderly. For the latest research, a team from Harvard Medical School looked at data from 121,700 women – all registered nurses, who had completed questionnaires beginning in 1976.

They were surveyed every four years and between 1995 and 2001 cognitive function was taken every two years in the 16,000 over the age of 70.

The research found increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries appeared to slow cognitive decline in older women, while a greater intake of anthocyanidins – a type of flavonoid – as well as the total amount of flavanoids was linked to reduced cognitive degeneration. Women who ate more berries delayed cognitive ageing by up to two and a half years.

The authors warned while external factors were taken into account, it was not possible to rule out that those who ate more berries led healthier lifestyles.

Dr Elizabeth Devore said: “We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women.

“Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”

Sarah Stelling, of the Edinburgh Centre of Nutrition Therapy, said the fruit needed to be built into varied and healthy diet

She said: “You still can’t beat a varied diet that includes berries, especially dark-coloured berries, they are considered to have huge health benefits.

“Strawberries also contain high of vitamin C, which is excellent, but the thing about them is that I would go organic when choosing them, because they can contain quite a lot of pesticide.”

Real thing beats supplement

Vitamin E may be able to prevent cancer, but according to a new study the most effective form of it is not the one found most commonly in supplements.

Researchers found that it is the type of vitamin E found in foods – including vegetable oil – can stave off the disease.

The vitamin has caused debate among researchers, who have questioned whether it promotes or prevents the disease. A team from the Centre for Cancer Prevention Research in Rutgers Mario School of Pharmacy, in the US now say there are two types of the vitamin – gamma and delta – which help prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers.

However, the form of vitamin E, alpha- tocopherol, most commonly-used in vitamin E supplements, has no such benefit.