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17 September 2014
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Can berries improve your memory?

The effects of cognitive changes are usually not noticed until we approach our 70s and beyond. As we age our brain faces increasing damage from inflammation and oxidation leading to a substantial decline in cognitive ability.

"fruit and veg could reverse the effects of ageing"

Given the dramatic rate in which the older population is increasing (the number of those 85 and over is expected to double to more than 1.8 million by 2028) it is crucial we investigate ways to minimise vulnerability of the brain from ageing.

One approach on how to do this might be found in nutrition. Research suggests that antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables might be the key to both stopping and reversing the deleterious effects of ageing on neuronal communication.

And scientists have also discovered that anthocyanins, the colourful antioxidants found in berries, can help protect against diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a range of other age-related diseases.

We took two groups of fun-loving OAPS and tested improvements in their memory over four months of a berry supplemented diet. Over the four months the groups undertook online cognition tests and learnt a new dance.

We asked one group of bowls-mad OAPS to eat a diet high in strawberries for three months. Then we went across the pond and asked their American equivalents to do the same with blueberries. We then tested improvements in their memory over the four months of their berry supplemented diet.

Was there a difference? Well, only some of our group noticed any changes in their memory but larger studies have shown marked improvements. So, if they were to continue to eat a cupful of berries every day for the rest of their lives they might notice a marked improvement in their cognition. If there’s a chance it might work, then there’s no harm in trying.

The scientist who devised this study was Dr James Joseph from Tufts University, Boston, USA.

Watch the films in our interactive player and take a look at some Takeaway Tips on how to stay young and beautiful.

Suggested recipes from BBC Food

Macerated Scottish berries with mascarpone sorbet

Individual summer puddings

Power shake

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