Berries are loaded with powerful antioxidants and blueberries in particular have exceptionally high levels of flavonoids. The deep blue colour of blueberries comes from the anthocyanin they contain and it is this sub-group of flavonoids, which have been found in other research to be beneficial in terms of helping us to maintain our memory and cognitive function.
Enjoying blueberries and the other deeply pigmented red berries and stone fruit has been recommended for a while, as being a useful to help protect us against dementia.
New research from Harvard now indicates that regularly eating berries may also lower your relative risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting motor function but is also associated with a 30% incidence of dementia.
In this study, the researchers used a dietary questionnaire for 49,281 men and 80,336 women. They then analysed the association between amount of flavonoid intake from food and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
They also analysed the consumption of five major food sources known to be high in flavonoid content i.e. berries, apples, red wine, tea, oranges and orange juice. The participants were followed over 20 to 22 years.
What were the findings?
In the male group it was found that those in the top 20% tier of flavonoid consumption were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than those in the bottom 20% tier of consumption.
Interestingly in the ladies group, no such relationship between flavonoid consumption and risk of Parkinson’s was demonstrated.
However, in examining the effect of the different subgroup of flavonoids, it was found that regular consumption of anthocyanin from berries was associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.
The message: eat more berries
This is the first human study to look at the link of flavonoids, (especially anthocyanin) in food and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The findings suggest that men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. It also appears that men can to continue to further reduce their risk by eating a greater proportion of other flavonoid rich foods in general, including apples and oranges, tea, red wine (in moderation) and chocolate.
Xiang Gao, MD, PhD Harvard School of Public health. American Academy of Neurology (2011, Feb17)