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Berries may have health-promoting properties as we age

2nd May 2013

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

It is well known that there are many ways to try and stay fit, and many of us try to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy. Research can help point us in the right direction, and the latest scientific research has shown that a diet that includes berries can have health-promoting properties, particularly in terms of aging.

Researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Tufts University have recently started conducting studies on humans after successful studies with rats showed that a diet including strawberries and blueberries had clear benefits to their health.

For the experiment, rats were fed a berry diet for 2 months and their brains were then studied after a process of irradiation, which was described as "a model for accelerated aging". The rats were then divided into two groups, with one group being analysed after 36 hours of radiation and the other after 30 days. The results showed that the rats experienced "significant protection against radiation" after having the same berry diet for 30 days.

It is believed that strawberries and blueberries supplement the "brain's natural housekeeping mechanism" after researchers looked at neurochemical changes in the brains of the rats. They looked at autophagy in particular, which helps to regulate the degradation, synthesis and recycling of cellular components and clear toxic accumulations in the brain and body. Increased autophagy has been linked to reducing muscle weakness, one of the reasons people have stairlifts installed in the home, and now it is believed that berries promote autophagy, helping keep both our brains and bodies in top form as we get older.

After these positive results, researchers are now conducting a similar study in humans aged 60-75 and have ensured that participants continue with their normal daily life, with the only change being the incorporation of more berries. Dr Barbara Shukitt-Hale, lead investigator of the human trials, has said that they hope the positive findings in the rat study "will translate to human studies as well". It is hoped that positive findings from this study could see widespread media promotion on the same level that saw oily fish become a household regular.

There are many ways to incorporate berries into a daily diet, with their sweetness making it particularly easy. Why not have some strawberries with your cereal in the morning? Or a tasty evening dessert can be enjoyed in the comfort of rise and recline chairs with a bowl of blueberries and raspberries with yoghurt.

Image Credit: angeloangelo (flickr.com)