By John Salak –
Two new weapons in the fight against dementia may have just been identified: strawberries and maintaining triglyceride levels. Neither is yet deemed to be a totally proven, slam-dunk aid against cognitive decline but two separate research studies identify their tantalizing potential.
The University of Cincinnati, for example, reports that daily strawberry consumption could help reduce the risk of dementia for certain middle-aged populations—which is an extension of earlier work the university conducted on the benefits of blueberries.
“Both strawberries and blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been implicated in a variety of berry health benefits such as metabolic and cognitive enhancements,” said lead researcher Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the university’s College of Medicine. “There is epidemiological data suggesting that people who consume strawberries or blueberries regularly have a slower rate of cognitive decline with aging.”
Strawberries also contain additional micronutrients called ellagitannins and ellagic acid that have been associated with other benefits, including metabolic and cardiovascular support that can be needed in the face of the development of insulin resistance, commonly referred to as prediabetes. This insulin resistance has been shown to be a factor in chronic diseases.
Krikorian’s latest work looked to examine the potential impact that strawberries have on mental strength.
“This study assessed whether strawberry consumption might improve cognitive performance and metabolic health in this population and, if so, whether there might be an association between cognitive enhancement and reduced metabolic disturbance,” he said.
The university’s team worked with 30 overweight patients between 50-65 years old who complained of mild cognitive decline. Over 12 weeks, the participants were asked to abstain from berry fruit consumption of any kind except for a daily packet of supplement powder to be mixed with water and consumed with breakfast. Half of the participants received powders that contained the equivalent of one cup of whole strawberries, which equates to a standard serving size, while the other half received a placebo.
The participants were then tested for certain cognitive abilities like long-term memory. The researchers also tracked their mood, intensity of depressive symptoms and metabolic data over the course of the study.
Those in the strawberry powder group had diminished memory interference, which is consistent with an overall improvement in executive ability.
“Reduced memory interference refers to less confusion of semantically related terms on a word-list learning test,” Krikorian said. “This phenomenon generally is thought to reflect better executive control in terms of resisting intrusion of non-target words during the memory testing.”
The strawberry-treated participants also had a significant reduction of depressive symptoms, which Krikorian suggested may be the result of “enhanced executive ability that would provide better emotional control and coping and perhaps better problem-solving.”
In another take on fighting dementia, the American Academy of N American Academy of Neurology published research recently that cited people who have higher levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, may have a lower risk of dementia and a slower cognitive decline over time compared to others with lower levels. The study, however, stressed that while it may have found a link between triglycerides and dementia, the research doesn’t prove these fatty acids prevent it.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the blood, contributing up to 95 percent of dietary fats, which are the main energy source of the brain. While obviously essential, there are also well-documented concerns associated with having exceedingly high triglyceride levels. They can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks and heart disease. The study published by the academy seems to advocate or at least identify the benefits of balanced levels.
“Higher triglyceride levels may be reflective of better overall health and lifestyle behaviors that would protect against dementia,” said study author Zhen Zhou, Ph.D., of Australia’s Monash University. “Our findings suggest that triglyceride levels may serve as a useful predictor for dementia risk and cognitive decline in older populations.”
Researchers came to their conclusion after a six-year study following almost 20,000 people with an average age of 75 who were not initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. During the period, more the 800 people developed dementia. During the research, the team looked annually at each participant’s total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL).
After adjusting for variables that could affect the risk of dementia including education and cholesterol-lowering treatments, researchers found every doubling of triglyceride levels was associated with an 18 percent lower risk of developing dementia.
The researchers also validated their results via another U.K. dataset of 68,200 older people, including almost 2,800 who developed dementia over an average time of 12 years. This examination revealed a 17-percent decreased risk of dementia with every doubling of triglycerides levels.
Are strawberries and robust triglyceride levels the key to warding off dementia? The research jury is still out. But while final judgments are made, it’s not going to hurt to gobble some strawberries daily.