Nuts and berries clean up the aging brain



In Germany, there is a snack called “Studentenfutter” which can be translated into English as “students’ food”. It simply consists of different nuts, raisins and other dried fruit. There are lots of explanation as to how the snack got its name. One is that it is cheap and therefore a favourite among students on a tight budget. Another is that it is a very handy snack – packed in a little plastic bag that can fit in pockets of jeans and jackets– and is therefore ideal for on-the-go students. My favourite explanation, however, is that the snack gives the much needed extra brain power for students during the exams period.

Recent evidence from research studies indicates that there is some truth to the 3rd explanation. It seems that certain compounds found in nuts and berries may have positive effects on the brain. These compounds supposedly “activate the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism that cleans up and recycles toxic proteins.” The result is the slowing down of memory loss and mental decline that comes with aging.

According to Dr. Shibu Poulose, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (source WebMD):

“The good news is that natural compounds called polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline.”

In aging brain tissue, waste products accumulate with time. Due to this build up, the brain cells that are supposed to clean up the waste become overactivated and can cause damage to healthy cells. The polyphenols in the berries, however, come to the rescue and restore normal cleaning up function. Poulose and his team of researchers demonstrated this in a study using mouse brain tissue.

Among the berries, blueberries, strawberries and acai berries are especially rich in polyphenols whereas walnuts are the champions among nuts. This is rather timely considering that it is the season for berries and nuts. The berries season is about to end and the nuts are about to fall.

However, polyphenols can also be found in other fruits and vegetables, especially those with deep red, orange, or blue pigments. Thus, even when the berries go out of season, we still have tomatoes to supply us with polyphenols the whole year round.

As to walnuts, the shelled nut closely resembles the brain, doesn’t it? At any rate, each time I see a walnut, I would remember that this nut is a good brain food and pop it into my mouth. Walnuts keep longer than berries and are available always in the supermarket.

So next time you find yourself forgetting something, maybe your brain just needs some cleaning up. And you know just what foods to eat to get the job done right.

Photo credit: wikicommons

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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