This could be berry sweet news for strawberry lovers.
University of Cincinnati researchers claim that eating strawberries every day could help reduce the risk of dementia for certain people of middle age. Their findings were published last month in the journal Nutrients.
In the 12-week study, 30 overweight patients who had complained of mild cognitive impairment were asked to abstain from eating berries — except for a daily packet of supplement powder mixed with water and consumed with breakfast.
Half the participants, who were 50 to 65 years old, received a powder with the equivalent of one cup of whole strawberries (the standard serving size), while the other half got a placebo.
The researchers tracked the participants’ long-term memory, mood, and metabolic health.
They found that those in the strawberry powder group performed better on a word-list learning test and had a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.
“Both strawberries and blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been implicated in a variety of berry health benefits such as metabolic and cognitive enhancements,” said Robert Krikorian, professor emeritus in the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, who studied the health effects of blueberry consumption last year.
“There is epidemiological data suggesting that people who consume strawberries or blueberries regularly have a slower rate of cognitive decline with aging,” his statement continued.
Krikorian noted that strawberries also contain ellagitannins and ellagic acid, which have been found to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.
Krikorian said the strawberries in his study may have improved cognitive function by reducing inflammation in the brain.
“Executive abilities begin to decline in midlife and excess abdominal fat, as in insulin resistance and obesity, will tend to increase inflammation, including in the brain,” he explained.
“So, one might consider that our middle-aged, overweight, prediabetic sample had higher levels of inflammation that contributed to at least mild impairment of executive abilities. Accordingly, the beneficial effects we observed might be related to moderation of inflammation in the strawberry group.”
Future research should feature more participants and different strawberry doses, Krikorian said.
The university acknowledged his research was supported by the California Strawberry Commission, with funding and donation of strawberry and placebo powders — but said the group had no role in the design of the study, data collection and analysis, or publication of the results.