WASHINGTON, D.C. September 28 -- Fruits and veggies are known to protect against cancer and heart disease. Now, for the first time, animal research shows that they also prevent the natural decline in brain function that comes with old-age.
"Nutritional intervention with fruits and vegetables may play an important role in protecting against and possibly reversing the movement and cognitive declines seen from aging," says the study's lead author James Joseph, PhD, Chief of Neuroscience at the United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Joseph's study, funded primarily by the USDA, the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Veteran's Affairs, is published in the October 1 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
"The new research is very interesting because it examines the interface between nutrition and neuroscience," says neurodegeneration expert Joseph Coyle, MD, of Harvard Medical School. "Very little is published on this area."
In the study, the researchers found that eating the daily equivalent of a pint of strawberries or a large spinach salad reduces specific effects of brain aging in rats. "Our results show that these foods, particularly spinach, may be beneficial in retarding age-related central nervous system and cognitive behavioral deficits and perhaps may have some benefit in neurodegenerative disease," says J. Joseph. The animals were fed a strawberry, spinach or vitamin E supplemented diet for eight months. Molecular results show that the diets protect against declines in nerve cell communications that are important for movement learning and control. In addition, the diets ward off a dip in memory performance seen in old-age, according to a water maze test.
The researchers examined strawberries and spinach because they are
loaded with antioxidants. These protective molecules fight off very harmful
molecules known as free ra
Contact: Leah Ariniello
Society for Neuroscience