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May 2012

Eating Flavonoid-Rich Berries May Delay Cognitive Decline

Eating flavonoid-rich berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults, a new study reports.

Blueberries are native to North America but are now grown around the world. Specific nutrients of the berries vary by locale and season. Blueberries have high levels of anthocyanins and thus high antioxidant levels. Anthocyanins are the pigments many plants produce in order to attract the birds and insects necessary for the dispersion of their seeds and pollination. Blueberries have been shown to have antioxidant properties, and preliminary animal and in vitro studies suggest that they may also provide anti-inflammatory effects, help manage diabetes, and help maintain the health of the brain, particularly the hippocampus and memory systems. At this time, however, there is a lack of human evidence in support of any clinical use of blueberries. Further research is required.

Strawberry (Fragaria spp.) is predominantly known for its bright red, edible fruit covered in small seeds. The fruit is fragrant and high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. Retrospective, epidemiological studies indicate that strawberry ingestion may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. More research is needed in these areas before supplemental amounts may be recommended. Preliminary research also indicates that strawberry may be useful as an anti-inflammatory and iron absorption enhancement. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

In a new study, researchers measured cognitive decline in 16,010 men and women over the age of 70. These individuals had participated in the Nurses' Health Study since 1980 and had taken food intake questionnaires every four years.

The data suggested that higher intake of blueberries and strawberries may be associated with lower rates of cognitive decline. The researchers found that eating these flavonoid-rich berries could potentially delay cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years.

The authors concluded that flavonoid-rich berries may have a protective effect against cognitive decline in older adults. However, more studies are needed to confirm and better understand these findings.

Dementia refers to a loss of cognitive function (an intellectual process resulting in an understanding, perception or awareness of one's thoughts and ideas). Dementia can be caused by changes in the brain such as those associated with disease or trauma. The changes may occur gradually or quickly. Cognition is the act or process of thinking, perceiving and learning. Cognitive functions that may be affected by dementia include decision making, judgment, memory, spatial orientation, thinking, reasoning and verbal communication. Dementia may also result in behavioral and personality changes, depending on the area of the brain affected.

For more information about dementia, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.

For more information about blueberries and strawberries, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol. 2012 Apr 26. doi: 10.1002/ana.23594. [Epub ahead of print] View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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