Dementia: The delicious red fruit that protects memory

Could eating habits affect brain function in the long term? What could protect us from Alzheimer's disease? A beloved and tasty fruit may be a valuable ally in the fight against dementia, scientists say

fresh strawberries wooden table scaled 1
Fresh strawberries on wooden table.

Could eating a fruit protect brain function, acting as a shield against Alzheimer's disease? Maybe so, a team of researchers from RUSH University Medical Center now claims.

RUSH researchers found a possible correlation between the bioactive compound pelargonidin (a class of anthocyanin called aglycone that gives orange-red color to fruits) and the presence of fewer NFTs in the brain. NFTs are caused by abnormal changes that occur when T proteins accumulate in the brain and their presence is one of the main diagnostic features of Alzheimer's disease in a patient. The new scientific findings were published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

"We suspect that the anti-inflammatory properties of pelargonidin may reduce overall neuroinflammation, which, in turn, may reduce cytokine production," said Dr. Julie Schneider, a neuropathologist at RUSH University's Alzheimer's Center in Chicago, associate professor and author of the study.

Cytokines are proteins produced by cells that can regulate various inflammatory responses. THE inflammation in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer's pathology, such as plaques and confusion. The data suggest that pelargonidin may protect the aging brain from developing Alzheimer's disease.

But how can we ensure the necessary amount of pelargonidin to protect our brain? It seems that an abundant source of pelargonidin is strawberries, a favorite fruit for many, which we can easily include in our diet.

"While pelagonidin should be further investigated for its role in maintaining brain health in older adults, eating strawberries is still a simple addition to the diet that almost anyone can incorporate," said Puja Agarwal, Ph.D., nutritionist-epidemiologist at RUSH Alzheimer's Disease Center, assistant professor of Medicine at RUSH Medical Center and author of the study.

RUSH researchers looked at data from the longitudinal MAP study Rush Memory and Aging Project, which began in 1997, included people age 65 and older who were residents of more than 40 retirement communities in northern Illinois. Those who enrolled were mostly white, without a diagnosis dementia and all agreed to undergo annual clinical assessments while alive and brain autopsy after death.

The postmortem data of 575 individuals for whom complete dietary information was provided, as well as postmortem brain autopsies, were evaluated. The average age at death was 91,3 years. As it turned out, a total of 120 participants were carriers of the APOE 4 gene, the strongest genetic factor associated with the risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to 452 people who were not carriers of the gene.

Regarding the evaluation of their diet, the participants answered a questionnaire, which related to the eating habits they had for up to 20 years before their death, while after their death they were followed by a neuropathological evaluation.

During the study, each person was given an annual, standardized test of cognitive ability in five domains:

  • episodic memory,
  • working memory,
  • semantic memory,
  • visuospatial ability and
  • speed of perception

At the same time, the researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect memory and thinking skills, such as education, the presence or absence of the APOE 4 gene, levels of vitamin E and C in such a way that they do not alter the results. It was observed that the associations between dietary habits and Alzheimer's disease were stronger in the cases of people who did not initially show signs of dementia or cognitive decline.

"We did not see the same effect in people with the APOE 4 gene, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease, but this may also be due to the smaller sample of these people in this study," commented Dr. Agarwal. "The study was observational and does not prove a direct causal relationship. More research is needed to understand the role of diet in Alzheimer's disease, but this study gives us hope for how certain dietary components, such as berries, including strawberries, can help with health. of the brain", he concluded.