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Blueberries May Reverse Some Aspects of Aging
What the Study Showed

In this 1999 animal study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that a diet rich in blueberries reversed age-related declines in balance and coordination.

How It Was Done

Researchers fed rats their normal diet and then either supplemented it with nothing (the controls) or with strawberry, spinach, or blueberry extract. (This is the equivalent of a person eating about one cup of either fruit or a salad bowl of the spinach per day.) During the 18-week study, a variety of tests were administered to measure the animals' coordination, balance, muscle strength and mental functioning. The investigators also took tissue samples to determine <<>> activity (oxidative stress) and nerve cell functioning.

Additional Findings

The rats eating the blueberry diet had a significant improvement in balance and coordination compared with the other groups. The functioning of their neurons, or nerve cells, also improved. These results are particularly interesting because age-related declines in balance and coordination are often very difficult to reverse. According to the researchers: "The findings from this research suggest that nutritional intervention with fruits and vegetables may play an important role in reversing the deleterious effects of aging on neuronal (nerve cell) function and behavior."

Why Its Important

Compared with the controls, only the groups on the <<>>-rich strawberry and blueberry extracts were protected from oxidative stress caused by free radicals and able to perform well on balance and coordination tests. Previous studies have shown that the central nervous system is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage; it also uses large amounts of oxygen, which in turn generates even more free radicals. This nervous system vulnerability is believed to worsen with aging.

In addition, even aside from their antioxidant potential, blueberries are also rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals which can affect cell membranes and may account for some of the effects seen in this study.

Author: James A. Joseph, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Natalaia A. Denisova, Donna Bielinski, Antonio Martin, John H. McEwen and Paula C. Bickford
Date Published: 01/14/2000
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