Is a daily serving of strawberries the key to improving cognitive function as we age? A new study says yes, and eating the red berries has heart health benefits, too.
Presented at the recent Nutrition 2023 conference, the research was conducted at San Diego State University and focused on the impact of daily strawberry consumption on cognitive function and heart health.
The study involved 35 healthy men and women aged 66 to 78 and spanned eight weeks. The participants were divided into two groups. One group consumed 26 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder daily, equivalent to two servings of strawberries. The other group received a control powder.
Impressively, participants who consumed the strawberry powder experienced a 5.2 percent increase in cognitive processing speed, which suggests potential cognitive benefits for older adults.
Strawberries and heart health
The study’s heart health findings were significant, too. Participants who consumed the strawberry powder experienced a noteworthy 3.6 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure, suggesting potential benefits for hypertension management.
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Additionally, their total antioxidant capacity increased by a substantial 10.2 percent, indicating improved cellular defense against oxidative stress.
“This study demonstrates that consuming strawberries may promote cognitive function and improve cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension,” study lead Shirin Hooshmand, professor in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at San Diego State, said in a statement.
“We’re encouraged that a simple dietary change, like adding strawberries to the daily diet, may improve these outcomes in older adults,” Hooshmand said.
Strawberries’ positive impact on heart and brain health may be attributed to their rich nutritional composition. They are packed with essential nutrients, including vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, phytosterols, and polyphenols.
These bioactive compounds have been linked to various health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol levels, supporting vascular function, and providing antioxidant protection. The combination of these nutrients makes strawberries a nutritional powerhouse with wide-ranging advantages for overall well-being.
Strawberries: a nutritional powerhouse
The current study on strawberries aligns with previous research, which has already demonstrated the cardiovascular, metabolic, and cognitive health benefits associated with these fruits.
Earlier studies have shown that strawberry consumption can improve vascular function and insulin resistance.
One study—presented at the recent ninth biennial Berry Health Benefits Symposium (BHBS)—investigated the effects of strawberry consumption on lipid profiles and glycemic control in 33 obese adults with elevated serum LDL cholesterol levels.
Using “dietary achievable doses of strawberries,” the researchers administered a daily dose of 2.5 servings of strawberries in powder form, which resulted in notable improvements in insulin resistance and moderate enhancement of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particle size, holding potential implications for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
“Our study supports the hypothesis that strawberry consumption can improve cardiometabolic risks,” Arpita Basu, PhD, RDN, lead investigator and associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in a statement.
“Furthermore, we believe this evidence supports the role of strawberries in a ‘food as medicine’ approach for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults,” Basu said.
Additionally, strawberries and their bioactive compounds have been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s dementia and lower rates of cognitive decline.
The findings from these studies present promising implications for potential interventions to support heart, brain, and overall health. Incorporating strawberries into the daily diet may prove to be a simple yet effective approach to enhance overall well-being, especially for older adults.
While the results are encouraging, researchers emphasize the need for further investigations to fully understand the mechanisms behind strawberries’ beneficial effects on heart and brain health.
Plant-based diet and cognitive function
While strawberries continue to be linked with brain health benefits, researchers have found that other plant-based foods, such as mushrooms and walnuts—and a plant-forward diet as a whole—have a positive impact on cognitive function, particularly as we age.
One study published in January in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology, suggests that consuming foods rich in antioxidant flavonols, such as fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine, may lead to a slower rate of memory decline.
This research involved 961 participants without dementia, aged around 81, who were observed for an average of seven years. Those with higher flavonol intake showed a reduced cognitive decline rate.
“Something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea is an easy way for people to take an active role in maintaining their brain health,” study author Thomas M. Holland, MD, MS of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, said in a statement at the time.