Berries on the Brain

ScienceDaily reports:

Eating Berries May Activate the Brain’s Natural Housekeeper for Healthy Aging

ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2010) — Scientists have reported the first evidence that eating blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help the aging brain stay healthy in a crucial but previously unrecognized way. Their study, presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), concluded that berries, and possibly walnuts, activate the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism, which cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and other mental decline.

Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., who presented the report, said previous research suggested that one factor involved in aging is a steady decline in the body’s ability to protect itself against inflammation and oxidative damage. This leaves people vulnerable to degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders.

“The good news is that natural compounds called polyphenolics found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline.”


I’ve been eating strawberries quite a lot throughout this year as well as blueberries when the price was right.  Apparently, frozen ones, available year round are just nutritious because freezing does not reduce the polyphenol. Just the other day polyphenols were in the news because tea also contains this antioxidant, but home-brewed tea rather than bottled tea has a highter percentage of polyphenols. The compound responsible for the color of turmeric, called curcumin, also happens to be a polyphenol- if you enjoy that spice. Deep reds, yellows and blues are the indications of color choices in fruits and vegetables.  Deep yellow sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, and black grapes are other good choices. Pure pomegranate and red grape juices and unfiltered apple juice or cider are excellent choices as well.

In moderation, red wine is a very rich source of the famous polyphenol, resveratrol, which is present in high concentrations in the skins of wine grapes. For the highest concentratons of resveratrol, choose Pinot Noir wines from colder, damp climates such as New York and Oregon.

For the non-wine drinkers, beer is also a great source of polyphenols , and contains a great variety of polyphenols. This is because beer is made with barley as well as hops. Barley provides the majority of the polyphenols found in beer, but hops are an important source of a variety of polyphenols. For the highest concentrations of polyphenols, choose well-hopped bitter beers such as India Pale Ales or dark beers. Dark malt that is used to make dark beers provides melanoidin antioxidants that actually may help to keep the hop polyphenol antioxidants in the beer during the brewing process.

Black barley in its raw form, rather than in the beer-making process, is loaded with polyphenols. Chocolate, too, if one chooses dark, bitter chocolate and unsweetened cocoa.

So, I am suggesting that we concoct a polyphenol-packed dinner and I wil call on the French Chef, Microdot, to assemble one for us.  Monsieur, si vous voulez.


10 thoughts on “Berries on the Brain

  1. How about cherries, spinach and broccoli?

    All supposedly loaded with antioxidants, but not mentioned.

    I’m just being lazy as I could look up their polyphenol level (I guess), but what have you heard? Anything other than that article?

    I sold “Juice Plus” for many years because of its polyphenol content. I’ve never been sick in over 20 years. Nope. Not even flu.

    Thanks for the input.


  2. Susan- thanks for the update. In fact, in another article I read, Montgomery cherries were hailed for their high polyphenol content. Dark hues of red, orange, blue and yellow are the key because, apparently, the antioxidants are carried in the color pigment. The dark green of spinach and broccoli contain antioxidants too, but were not mentioned in that linked science article.

    Glad that you are still reading the blog.

  3. I believe that’s Montmorency cherries and I eat them every day.

    I went ahead and looked it up – broccoli and spinach come in further down the list.

    You’re very welcome.


  4. I would add to go organic. In any case use a fruit and vegetable wash.
    1 cup vinegar, 2tbsp salt, and 4 cups water or fill a bowl with water. Let soak for 25-30 minutes. Rinse.

    A therapeutic serving of blueberries is 1/4 cup. Most fruit servings are at 1/2 of the piece of fruit. Frozen organic blueberries come in a 12 oz bag
    at Kroger’s for about $4. I believe that would be seven servings at a
    quarter cup. We bought 4lbs of organic blueberries at the market in early summer, froze them on a cookie sheet, and then bagged them.

    With cheeries, some one at a nutrition store said to simply use the unsweetened red cherries in the cans for making a cheery pie…

  5. All the things I like!
    I grow strawberries, but raspberries are my speciality. This area is the strawberry and walnut capitol of Europe. The main road through my village, Badefols d’Ans is called La Route du Noix…the road of the Walnuts….

    I would love to grow blueberries, which I love, we call them Myrtilles here, but they require acidic soil…I can grow currants…cassis and red currants, which I do in abundance….

    I get to collect walnuts on a friends property (He lives in Australia, so he is never here to harvest the walnuts off of the 40 or 50 year old trees on his land) They last us all year. We are cracking the last of last years to put in fig confiture…Yes, that is the late summer bane of my existance…figs, figs and more figs. So, fig preserves with walnut pieces and a little walnut oil is an incredible thing. I barbecue duck breasts, something I know that is a rare thing in America, but here, again it is a local speciality. We have these huge ducks, the size of geese and the male duck breast is like steak, to me, it is better than a steak.
    The condiment is usually fruit based. I tried serving it with the fig/walnut confiture and have gotten rave revues, so it is a standard barbecue item here in La Sechere.
    I can go on about the therapeutic value of water fowl fat…it is a good fat and the corelation with the lowest rate of heart disease in Europe in Southwestern France….at least in the population eating a traditional diet.
    Goose and Duck fat are essentials in cooking here.
    Walnuts, Goose and Duck Fat, Pecharment Red Wine ( very good variety of Bergerac…it has a full fruited falvor with a peppery bite in the after taste to it)
    So, I will come up with a menu for Americans, because I realize a lot of the things I take for granted are luxury items in America…..
    But to night, we are having a salad with little cabecou goat cheeses heated in the oven over frissee lettuce…it is a big flat slightly bitter chicorie with walnut pieces dressed with a simple red wine vinagrette…
    The oil used is actually colza cut with a little hazel nut oil…

    And tomaoes, Mudrake, now that I am up to my knees in tomatoes, are there therapeutic benefits expecially derived from them?

  6. by the way, I am back to having heat realted computer problems again…
    This nasty little machine knows it’s days are numbered and is having occasional tantrums.

  7. Tomatoes, I believe, are good for our eyes. Helps to prevent Glaucoma, if I have that right. Don’t know the amount right now…

    I understand a heat related computer problem very well, MD…My fan has quit on my old dell, so I have resorted to using a small household fan to cool. So far it has been working.

  8. Tomatoes = Vit. K, C and A plus the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene from tomatoes has been repeatedly studied in humans and found to be protective against a growing list of cancers, including colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Interestingly, processed tomatoes have the highest lycopene percentage, ketchup leading the way. The cooking of the tomato leaches out the lycopene that in fact, is in the red pigment of the fruit.

    However, the gac, a Southeast Asian fruit, has many times the lycopene than a tomato. Put that into a compote for excellent health! Gac has 2,000–2,300 μg/g wet weight whereas a tomato is about 25.

    Eat your gac!

  9. Another report on tomatoes: “Studies conducted by Harvard researchers have discovered that men who consumed 10 servings of tomatoes a week, or the equivalent to 10 slices of pizza, can cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by a formidable 45 percent.”

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