Scientists from Rush university found that strawberries as a snack may help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. While dementia is more common as people grow older, it is not a normal part of aging.
Scientists believe that a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors influence when Alzheimer’s disease begins and how it progresses.
People’s genes, which are inherited from their biological parents, can affect how likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
APOE ɛ4 is called a risk-factor gene because it increases a person’s risk of developing the disease.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the so-called tau tangles. Tau is a protein contained within the axons of the nerve cells.
More specifically, tau helps form microtubules — essential structures that transport nutrients within nerve cells. Amyloid-β load is associated with neurodegeneration of the brain.
Pelargonidin is a common plant pigment producing a characteristic orange color used in food and industrial dyes.
Pelargonidin can be found in berries such as ripe raspberries and strawberries, as well as blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries but also in saskatoon berries and chokeberries.
It is also found in plums and pomegranates. Pelargonidin gives red radishes their color.
Previous research found pelargonidin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is linked to better cognition and reduced Alzheimer’s dementia risk.
In the current study, researchers examined if pelargonidin or berry intake is associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain
The team examined 575 deceased participants (age at death was 90, 70% were women) of the Rush Memory and Aging Project.
They analyzed dietary data (assessed using a food frequency questionnaire) and brain health data.
The researchers found that in people who had the highest intake of pelargonidin with berries, the amyloid-β load and tau tangles in the brains were lower than in people who had the lowest intake of pelargonidin.
They also found in people who did not carry the genetic risk factor APOE ɛ4, higher strawberry and pelargonidin intake was linked to fewer tau tangles. No association was found in people carrying APOE ɛ4.
Finally, berry intake was not linked to Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain.
But when the team excluded people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment before the study from their analysis, they found strawberry and pelargonidin intake were linked to fewer tau tangles.
These findings suggest that a higher intake of pelargonidin, a bioactive present in strawberries, is linked to less Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology, primarily tau tangles in the human brain.
The research is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and was conducted by Dr. Julie Schneider et al.
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