Your Brain on Blueberries

January 16th, 2011

From Scientific American: Chemical compounds common to berries, tofu, tea and other foods can shore up memory and boost brainpower.

What is blue, sweet and juicy and may help ward off those nagging memory lapses? If you guessed blueberries, you would be right… they may protect our brain.

Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

To date, scientists have identified more than 6,000 flavonoid-containing foods.  They are widely distributed in fruits and vegetables, cereal grains, cocoa, soy foods, tea and wine.

How much do we need?  A Cincinnati study found a 30% improvement in a group of adults older than 75 with mild memory loss who drank two cups of blueberry juice a day (the equivalent of five cups of blueberries). One study in England asked peope to add flavonoid containing foods to their meals: either soy products, supplements (Gingko biloba or pine bark extract) or a cocoa-containing beverage. Flavonoid consumption improved cognition and fine motor skills. Amounts needed to produce the improvements?  One and a half cups of tofu or two cups of soy milk, 120 mg. of gingko, 150 mg. of pine bark extract, or 172 mg of cocoa flavonoids (the equivalent of 10.5 ounces of dark chocolate).

But wait–these studies give single-source quantities!  If you have flavonoids from a variety of sources you’ll need moderate amounts of each one.  The bottom line: eat your fruits and vegetables!

Article (behind a paywall)

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