Sinking your teeth into a sweet strawberry might help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
A compound that gives the fruit its color, called pelargonidin, is associated with fewer tau tangles in the brain, according to the researchers. These tangles, accumulations of microscopic brain protein fragments, are a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a press release, Dr. Julie Schneider, the study author and an associate professor and neuropathologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, says:
“We suspect the anti-inflammatory properties of pelargonidin may decrease overall neuroinflammation, which may reduce cytokine production.”
The body’s cells produce cytokines, which are proteins that can regulate various inflammatory responses in the body. It is believed that inflammation in the brain triggers the plaques and tangles that lead to Alzheimer’s.
Tau tangles are a hallmark of the disease, which is caused by abnormal changes in tau proteins that accumulate in the brain.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Of all berries, strawberries have the highest concentration of pelargonidin, the researchers say.
The researchers looked at data from a long-term study that dates back to 1997 and that included the dietary information of 575 people who have since died. Brain autopsies were performed on the study participants.
Although the findings are encouraging, the researchers note that the study was observational and thus does not prove that eating strawberries is directly responsible for helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Study coauthor Puja Agarwal, a nutritional epidemiologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, says:
“While pelargonidin should be examined further for their role in maintaining brain health in older adults, this gives a simple change that anyone can make in their diet.”
Strawberries aren’t the only food that might keep your mind in great shape. For other great dietary choices, check out “The Top 10 Foods for Protecting the Brain as You Age.”