Summer in the Northern Hemisphere signals an influx of fresh berries. These seasonal fruits are more than just tasty: they may also be good for your brain and your long-term health.
Nutritionists have long touted the benefits of berries’ high antioxidant levels. But now neuroscientists are also looking deeper into the mental benefits of consuming berries: a particular subclass of antioxidants found in berries, anthocyanidins, can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the brain.
In a 2012 article from Annals of Neurology, researchers investigated the effects of anthocyanidin-rich blueberries and strawberries over long periods of time.
Lifelong habits and brain health
Led by epidemiologist Elizabeth Devore, a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed data from 16,010 participants over a 25 year span.
Data was first collected in 1976, when female nurses aged 30-55 answered a battery of lifestyle questions (including questions on diet) and took 6 cognitive assessments. The nurses reanswered lifestyle questions every four years—and finally, starting in 1995, they retook the original cognitive assessments.
This data, collected at regular intervals over several decades, gave researchers valuable insight into how long-term lifestyle and diet choices could affect cognitive health.
Diet can slow down decline
The average woman’s cognition declined by 0.2 units every year that she aged (units measured by this study’s standards).
But women who reported eating larger quantities of anthocyanidin-rich blueberries and strawberries slowed down cognitive decline in astonishing ways: by measures of cognitive performance, older women who ate more berries appeared to have delayed aging by 2.5 years!
Though the study was not conclusive—aside from relying on self-reported data, the study was unable to draw conclusions across different age groups and genders—it is an indication of how diet can positively impact brain health.
Berries and Lumosity BPI
Two months ago, over 12,000 Lumosity members participated in a science survey that asked, among other things, how many servings of berries they consumed eon average. After controlling these results for age, gender, and education, our own data scientists found that eating berries correlated with better BPI performance—supporting the results from the 2012 study above.
Specifically, those who reported eating berries at least 1-3 times per month showed slight but significantly higher initial performance on Lumosity games than those who reported never or rarely eating berries. After scaling a user’s initial scores on each of the five Lumosity Brain Areas to get an overall IQ-like measure of performance, we found that users who reported eating blueberries at least 1-3 times per month averaged 0.61 points higher than those who reported never or rarely eating blueberries. Users who reported eating strawberries at least 1-3 times per month averaged 0.82 points higher than those who never reported eating blueberries.
Recent research and Lumosity’s own resources have revealed that diet, as with all good habits, can have an amazing positive affect on your life—as long as you commit to it as a healthy, long-term habit. Just as the cognitive gains experienced by berry-eaters accumulate over longer periods of time, so do Lumosity’s amazing cognitive benefits take regular training sessions to fully appear. Studies suggest that both cognitive training and a good diet can reduce the effects of cognitive decline, giving older people the appearance of younger, healthier brains. So fit both a healthy diet and a regular training program into your life today!
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