The session held Thursday afternoon on Aging and Cognition presented by Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD focused on the increase in inflammation and oxidative stress in brain aging.
Thirty percent of the United States population is over the age of 65. If these individuals suffer from decreased motor and cognitive function there could be a healthcare crisis in this country.
Dr. Shukitt-Hale and her staff have conducted several research studies looking at impaired motor performance and cognitive function in aging rats. Their results showed a decrease in motor behavior, learning, and spatial memory.
Their research question was whether this impaired function could be stopped or improved by altering the diet of the rats. They specifically looked at polyphenols found in dark fruit and vegetables, wine, chocolate, and walnuts.
Polyphenols show many neuroprotective features such as anti-inflammation, antioxidants, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer as well as improved vision.
The overall findings of their research show that nutrition intervention can forestall age related deficits in learning and memory and reverses deficits in learning and memory and declines in motor behavior performance.
But, can this translate to humans now becomes the question. The research group expanded their studies to assess exactly that.
Initial studies looked at the effects of aging on balance, gait, and cognition. Both cognition and mobility decrease with age and these declines are measurable at younger ages than expected.
The introduction of blueberries and strawberries into the diet of their human subjects improved both the measures of executive function and spatial recognition.
Their results showed:
- Berries can reduce proinflammatory signals in cells
- Functional declines in mobility and cognition are key features of aging
- Berry fruit can improve cognition
- Different berry fruits affect different aspects of cognition
In summary, polyphenols have direct effects on the brain and they can reverse age related declines.
And most importantly, eat more berries!