You’ve probably heard that certain foods, such as salmon and avocado, are considered good for your brain health. But scientists have found there’s a surprising new food to add to that list: strawberries.
That’s the takeaway from research published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A, which found that a natural compound in strawberries reduces mental defects and inflammation associated with aging in mice. The compound, which is called fisetin, is an antioxidant that researchers say has the potential to help treat age-related mental decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or stroke.
For their research, scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies fed 3-month-old mice that were aging prematurely either a daily dose of fisetin with their food for seven months or food with no fisetin. Both groups of mice were put through various activity and memory tests during the study. Scientists also studied the levels of certain proteins in the mice that were related to brain function, as well as responses to stress and bodily inflammation.
By the time they were 10 months old, mice that were not treated with fisetin struggled with the cognitive tests, and also had elevated markers of stress and inflammation. Brain cells that typically are anti-inflammatory were also inflamed. But the 10-month-old mice that were treated with fisetin had similar behavior, mental ability, and inflammatory markers to 3-month-old mice that were aging prematurely but were otherwise untreated.
It’s worth pointing out that this is a mouse study, and the researchers can’t yet say that the results would be the same in humans. But the findings are promising.
Fisetin in particular might help prevent cognitive decline because it reduces brain inflammation, maintains the levels of the important omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the brain, and reduces the loss of proteins involved in the connections between nerve cells, study co-author Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist in Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, tells Yahoo Beauty.
Maher notes that most people are probably not getting enough fisetin in their regular diet to make an impact. For example, a 154-pound person would have to eat 37 large strawberries a day to get close to the dose researchers gave to the mice in the study. However, she adds, “it might not hurt” to eat more strawberries in any amount, especially given that berries have been linked with other health benefits like boosting bone health and contributing to healthy hair and nails.
While strawberries might help on some level, Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that it’s a good idea to take classes if you want to stay mentally sharp. That could mean taking a cooking class or signing up for something more academic at your local community college. As you get older, making a point to get out and do new things is crucial, he says. Maher also recommends following a Mediterranean-style diet, exercising regularly, and keeping yourself mentally stimulated. And adding a few strawberries to the mix won’t hurt either.
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