Over 50? Eating This Fruit Could Slash Your Dementia Risk, New Study Finds
Results find having a small daily serving could provide a major brain boost in midlife.
Whether it's slicing a banana over your morning oatmeal or grabbing an apple as a midday snack, it's a well-known fact that incorporating fruit into your daily diet is essential for your overall health. Besides being a versatile and delicious alternative to sweet treats, research has also shown that they help stave off certain diseases such as diabetes. But what about when it comes to brain health? Now, a new study has found that eating one fruit daily could cut your risk of dementia—especially if you're over 50. Read on to see which item you may want to incorporate more into your diet.
Statistics show that dementia is becoming more common.
While monitoring your health through the aging process is a different experience for each person, figures show that dementia is becoming distressingly more common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2014, at least 5 million Americans were living with the cognitive condition. Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to nearly triple to 14 million people with the disease by 2060.
According to the agency, symptoms of dementia typically affect people beginning at 65. And while older age is the best-known risk factor for the cognitive condition, research has shown that leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce that risk, including large studies that found keeping active, maintaining a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol consumption had significant brain-related benefits.
New research shows one particular fruit could reduce your risk of dementia in midlife.
Now, a new study published in the journal Nutrients has found that one fruit, in particular, could go a long way in reducing your dementia risk. In it, a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) gathered 33 participants between the ages of 50 and 65 who were prediabetic, overweight, and had self-reported issues with their memory as they aged—all of which signify an increased risk for dementia.
They were then asked to cut all berries from their diet and to instead ingest a supplement powder mixed with water once a day for 12 weeks, according to a release from the university. For half of the group, the powder contained the equivalent of one-half cup of whole blueberries, while the remaining received a placebo as a control. Participants then took tests to measure their executive functions, working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control, which the study's authors say can indicate cognitive decline in aging patients.
Results found that those in the group ingesting the blueberry powder daily performed better on tests and showed signs of cognitive improvement. "This was evident as reduced interference of extraneous information during learning and memory," Robert Krikorian, PhD, the study's lead author and professor emeritus and director of the division of psychology in the UC College of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, said in a statement.
Results showed that blueberry consumption had other health benefits as well.
According to researchers, previous research had led them to test blueberries specifically, and specifically how prediabetes—also known as insulin resistance—could play a factor in Alzheimer's risk, the most common form of dementia. "We had observed cognitive benefits with blueberries in prior studies with older adults and thought they might be effective in younger individuals with insulin resistance," said Krikorian. "Alzheimer's disease, like all chronic diseases of aging, develops over a period of many years beginning in midlife."
The results found that participants in the blueberry group displayed a "higher degree of mitochondrial uncoupling." This cellular-level process has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the body that can cause memory loss or fatigue.
"This last finding was exploratory but points to an interesting, potential mechanism for blueberry benefits," Krikorian concluded in the press release.
The researchers hope to further research exactly how blueberries can lower dementia risk.
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that more research would be needed to better understand why blueberries appear to provide a risk reduction for cognitive decline. But they also stood by the findings that show incorporating more of the fruit into your diet in middle age can still yield significant benefits.
"The sample size is an obvious limitation of the study, so it will be important to reproduce these findings, especially by other investigators," Krikorian said. "In the meantime, it might be a good idea to consume blueberries on a regular basis."
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