On your next trip to the supermarket, you might want to consider stocking up on the strawberries and blueberries. Not only are they a tasty treat, but according to new research, they just might help in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease.
The study, which took place at Harvard Medical School in Boston, found that adults who ate two or more servings of strawberries or blueberries a week lowered their risk of Parkinson’s disease by close to 25 percent compared with individuals who consumed berries less than once a month.1 More than 130,000 men and women participated in the research. Over a 20-year follow-up period, their health records were analyzed and just over 800 of the subjects eventually developed Parkinson’s disease.
But the berry eaters were much less likely to end up with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. It seems that the most probable reason for their benefit is the flavonoids that are so prevalent in strawberries and blueberries. These antioxidants, found mainly in various fruits and vegetables, work hard to eradicate harmful substances from all over the body, including the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition affecting the brain that is caused by the gradual destruction of dopamine-generating cells in that organ. Dopamine is a chemical produced within the brain that stimulates our reward and pleasure centers, giving us a sensation of feeling good. As the disease progresses, patients have increasing tremors and problems controlling their muscles. (Incidentally, if you progress to that state, you might want to consider a formula based on L-carnosine, Acetyl-l-carnitine, and DMAE, as it may help with tremors.)
The researchers are not sure exactly why flavonoids can help in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease, but they offer a plethora of benefits at any rate. And, if you are not a fan of blueberries or strawberries, they can be found in other foods as well. In fact, study participants who ate flavonoids from a variety of sources such as apples, tea, and red wine in addition to the berries were even less likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The men, in particular, who consumed the most flavonoids had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s during the analysis period than their peers who ate the least flavonoids.
Out of all the sources of flavonoids, blueberries in particular seem to offer us the most all-around benefits. A 2008 study performed at the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School in England discovered that blueberries may be able to reverse cognitive impairment.2 The scientists fed elderly rats a regular diet supplemented with about five ounces of blueberries a day for 12 weeks. After three weeks the rats showed considerable improvement in performing tasks involving spatial memory. In fact, the blueberry-enhanced old rats performed as well as young rats, improving memory by 83 percent, and the improvements continued for the remaining nine weeks of the study.
And a 2009 study at Ohio State University found that blueberries may shrink blood vessel tumors in babies while doubling survival rates.3 The research team fed blueberry extract to mice that had tumors. The mice receiving the extract lived twice as long as those mice that had blood vessel tumors but didn’t take the extract. Also the tumors in the blueberry mice were 60 percent smaller than those in the control group.
Other research has documented the blueberry’s ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, prevent bladder infections, lower cholesterol, reduce nasal congestion, and protect against degenerative eye diseases. Imagine how much healthier the world could be if we were all regular blueberry eaters. From our brains on down, blueberries can benefit our bodies, and when we add other sources of flavonoids, we just boost their collective power.
Turn to Mother Nature for some healthy, tasty preventative medicine. And if you’ve already got an illness, rather than trying to alleviate the symptoms with pharmaceuticals prescribed by your doctor, give berries a try. Eaten regularly, they just might prove to be the right medicine for what ails you, without all the side effects of the drugstore stuff.
1 X. Gao, A. Cassidy, M.A. Schwarzschild, et al. “Habitual intake of dietary flavonoids and risk of Parkinson disease.” Neurology April 10, 2012 vol. 78 no. 15 1138-1145. <http://www.neurology.org/content/78/15/1138.abstract?sid=1133c579-7e9f-40c2-8976-5ea0b77ed3c2>.
2 McAllister, Rallie. “Latest Research Touts Blueberries as Brain Food.” Creators.com. 2008. Accessed 16 April 2012. <http://www.creators.com/health/rallie-mcallister-your-health/latest-research-touts-blueberries-as-brain-food.html>.
3 Gordillo G, Fang H, Khanna S, Harper J, Phillips G, Sen CK. “Oral administration of blueberry inhibits angiogenic tumor growth and enhances survival of mice with endothelial cell neoplasm.” Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Jan;11(1):47-58. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18817478>.