Brain Food: Sweet Fruit Boosts Your Memory

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Brain Food: Sweet Fruit Boosts Your Memory about undefined

Foods described as healthy are not always the kind most people wish to eat. Leafy green vegetables certainly fall into this category. Thankfully, fruit is an exception, and one of the finest examples that’s not only sweet, juicy and a joy to eat, but jam-packed with health benefits is the humble strawberry.

In fact, evidence is mounting that strawberries are great for your memory and brain function.

Researchers have performed a number of cellular studies on the health benefits of strawberries and their key compounds. When researchers gave strawberry concentrates to rodents, they saw improvements in their neuronal and cognitive functions. And it begs the question, does this apply to humans?

The answer is a resounding yes…

Lowers Brain Aging and Reduces The Risk of Alzheimer's

A Harvard study of 16,000 nurses over 20 years published in 2012 showed that strawberry (and blueberry) intake “appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.” Seven years later, scientists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied 925 participants aged 58 to 98 over a period of six years. They found a higher strawberry intake reduced the risk of Alzheimer's by nearly a quarter (24 percent).

Then, in 2021, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in older adults published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that participants in the strawberry powder group performed significantly better in tasks involving spatial navigation and word recognition when compared to controls. A similarly designed trial published in 2023 by San Diego State University researchers found strawberry powder improved cognitive processing speed. The case for strawberries as a brain food is looking good. And a new study all but cements their memory boosting abilities.

Improves Executive Functioning

For the study, researchers enrolled five men and 25 women between the ages of 50 and 65 who were at increased risk for late-life dementia because all were overweight, insulin resistant – putting them at risk of diabetes – and complained of mild cognitive problems.

For 12 weeks they abstained from eating berries of any kind but instead consumed either the equivalent of one cup of whole strawberries in the form of a 13-gram sachet of powder with breakfast each day, or a placebo powder which looked and tasted the same as the genuine article and contained the same amount of carbohydrate.

Then researchers gave the participants a series of tests that measured certain cognitive abilities such as executive function – the ability to learn, plan and manage everyday tasks – and long-term memory. The researchers also tracked their mood, intensity of depressive symptoms and metabolic data over the course of the study.

The results, published in the journal Nutrients in October, showed that the strawberry-treated participants made fewer mistakes recollecting words on a learning task called delayed recognition or interference, as explained by lead author Robert Krikorian from the University of Colorado.

“So, when they were given a list of words - some of which they practiced earlier and some of which they had not - they said yes to some of the words that were not on that original list, and that’s what we mean by interference.

“Reduced memory interference refers to less confusion of semantically related terms on a word-list learning test. This phenomenon generally is thought to reflect better executive control in terms of resisting intrusion of non-target words during the memory testing.”

The strawberry-treated participants also had a significant reduction of depressive symptoms, which Dr Krikorian said results from “enhanced executive ability that would provide better emotional control and coping and perhaps better problem-solving.”

Unlike other strawberry studies, the researchers found no effect on the patients’ metabolic health. The researchers think this is because other studies had more participants, were longer than 12 weeks and used a higher dose of strawberries.

Brain Protective Pigments

As to how strawberries could achieve these results was put down to anthocyanins. These red, orange, blue and purple pigments are produced by plants to provide resistance against environmental hazards. Anthocyanins are highly abundant in berries and have been shown to be neuroprotective.

The University of Colorado researchers believe the 36.8 milligrams of anthocyanins contained in each sachet was “a primary mechanistic factor” in reducing neuroinflammation, and this most likely explains the results they witnessed. However, there are many other plant compounds found in strawberries such as ellagitannins and ellagic acid that have health benefits and could have played a part in the results. Further research will no doubt reveal more.

Our Takeaway

There’s no doubt that strawberries are an excellent food for your brain function and memory. But one caution: Be sure to eat organic strawberries because conventional strawberries have been heavily sprayed with pesticides. They have been shown repeatedly by The Environmental Working Group to be among “The Dirty Dozen”—the group of fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticide and herbicide residues in their annual testing. Eating organic is highly recommended.

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