Study shows berries help delay memory loss

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COLUMBIA - The colorful scenery at grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the summer provide more than just a visual appeal.

Jennifer Bean, an assistant teaching professor for MU's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, said fruits and vegetables are unique because their color comes from nutritious components.

"What research shows us right now is the biggest component are these things called flavonoids, and that's just a fancy word for color," Bean said."It's those particular components that will afford for perhaps helping in memory in aging or for decreasing infamation or eye health, all kinds of things like that."

Particularly the deep red and blue colors, found in blueberries and strawberries, are being found to help in getting blood to the brain to oxygenate the areas of memory.

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that a diet that promotes the consumption of berries aided in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The MIND diet, which stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, promotes a diet of "brain-healthy" foods that include leafy greens and fish along with berries.

The observational study found an association between a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and a moderate following of the MIND diet. The MIND diet recommends consuming berries twice a week.

The study involved participants from 58 to 98 years old. Bean said most of these studies are done with people 45 years old or older, however it is important for everyone to include fruits in their diets, especially if they have a family history.

While eating berries is important for everyone, the way in which the berries are consumed can affect what someone takes away.

Juicing won't change the amount of flavonoid, but Bean said it does take away fiber and other components from the berry. Bean said she encourages people to eat the actual berry.

"What is most important when it comes to fruit and vegetables is to either eat it or preserve it as close to picking as possible, because then the nutrients that are in that fresh vegetable, fruit, berry are going to stay as nutritious as possible," Bean said.

Bean recommends growing fruit at home or visting a U-Pick for maximum nutrition quality.