A new study from Harvard University, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, showed that eating strawberries and blueberries may help reduce the rate of cognitive decline, delaying loss of memory and reasoning power by up to 2.5 years.
Besides this study, another recent report from the University of British Columbia (Canada) found that the practice of bodybuilding significantly improved cognitive function, associative memory and functional plasticity (ability to form new connections) of the brain in older women.
In the Harvard study, researchers studied data from 121,700 women, aged 30 to 55 years at the start of the study. Between 1980 and 2001, the women completed questionnaires every four years regarding their dietary habits and lifestyle. Beginning in 1995, those over age 70 had annual cognitive function testing.
The results showed that higher consumption of berries, an important source of flavonoids (chemical compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), significantly slowed cognitive decline. The women who regularly consumed a large quantity of red berries showed a 2.5-year delay in the process of cognitive impairment.
Dr. Elizabeth Devore, the coordinator of the study, believes that factors such as stress and inflammation contribute to the cognitive impairment that occurs with age and, therefore, the consumption of foods rich in flavonoids minimize the effects of brain aging. She cautioned that there may be other factors involved, as the individual who eats lots of fruit may also lead a healthier lifestyle in general. Flavonoids are also found in high quantities in red wine and dark chocolate.
The British Columbia study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was conducted with 86 adult women who already showed mild cognitive impairment, and the study compared the efficacy of strength training and aerobic exercise in improving cognitive functions necessary for independent living, such as attention, memory, problem solving, and decision making. The study also evaluated the effect of two types of exercise on the performance of associative memory and functional plasticity of the brain. In the study, participants performed one of the two types of training twice weekly for six months.
The results showed that weight training significantly improved cognitive functions, including memory and brain plasticity. In contrast to previous studies in healthy elderly, aerobic training showed no significant effect on cognitive function and brain plasticity.
In order to motivate seniors to exercise, the research team developed and released an informative video with the exercises used in the study: click here to see the video.
These two studies strengthen the concept that a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activitiy in addition to a healthy diet, may well help preserve your brain function as you get older.
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