Pick Blueberries for Brain Defense
Years ago, typing the word "blueberry" into an Internet search engine would yield recipes. Today, a blueberry Internet search garners vastly different results: The antioxidant benefits of blueberries get top billing. There's a buzz heard throughout the Alzheimer's research world regarding the effect of antioxidants, found in foods such as blueberries, on this disease. Given that by the year 2025 an estimated 34 million people globally will be diagnosed with the neurodegenerative condition Alzheimer's disease (AD), there's a lot riding on the promise of antioxidants found in foods.
It's clear that the trend in medicine is towards prevention. While historically AD research focused on pharmaceutical solutions, today researchers seek to find nutritional solutions to combat this disease -- and blueberries have emerged as a leader in the fight. Is it possible to prevent, slow or reverse AD by adding blueberries to your diet? Research suggests that the answer is yes. Although several drugs have been developed that now aid in symptom relief for people suffering with AD, research also shows that the antioxidant properties in blueberries may make them an excellent natural source to help treat or prevent this disease.
How blueberries work in the brain
Crucial to understanding how blueberries can contribute to the treatment of AD is a basic understanding of the mechanism of the disease. Researchers widely agree that AD occurs due to a substance called amyloid a-peptide, an amino acid peptide that accumulates in the brain and causes plaque to form. Additionally, this plaque buildup in the AD brain induces oxidative stress -- the damaging effects of free radicals. These variances in the brain are what contribute to the neurodegeneration (cell death) that occurs, which prompts the hallmark symptoms experienced by AD patients, such as memory loss. As we age, our body's free-radical scavenging abilities decrease, which prompts oxidative stress. Blueberries are high in antioxidants that rid our brains of free radicals.
Researchers who have focused on the properties of blueberries in treating AD had a common revelation: Blueberries have a powerful effect on oxidative stress that may prove to be a mechanism of natural protection against AD. Although additional research needs to be done, hopes are high for blueberries' potential as an AD treatment. "I think it will be a long time, if ever, that there will be a cure for AD. I think the more promising approach is prevention and delay of AD, which is the aim of my research with dietary interventions," says
Dive into blueberries
It's not hard to sell the benefits of eating more blueberries. This delicious fruit, known to be rich in anti-inflammatory properties, should already be part of your healthy diet. Blueberries are a tasty addition to your day; you can sprinkle them into cereals, yogurt, smoothies, desserts and salads. And now you have another reason to enjoy them -- for their memory-protecting properties. Science points towards the necessity of eating more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as crucial to protection against neurodegenerative diseases like AD. Though only continued study will tell us how useful blueberries may be in fighting AD, right now the future looks rich with opportunity. So, the next time you're pushing your cart through the supermarket and spot those lovely blue-purple berries, whether fresh, frozen or dried, stop and give some thought to an ounce of prevention.
Blueberries' Notable Nutrients
1 cup fresh, 148 grams
Dietary Fiber: 4 grams (14 percent DV)
Vitamin C: 14.4 milligrams (24 percent DV)
Vitamin K: 28.6 micrograms (36 percent DV)
Manganese: .8 milligrams (44 percent DV)
(DV= Daily Value)
Six Layer Oatmeal
Makes one serving.
1 packet instant oatmeal, plain
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
3 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 teaspoon dried coconut
Prepare the oatmeal according to package directions and place in cereal bowl.
Layer the ingredients as follows: brown sugar, blueberries, cranberries, almonds and coconut.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 193 calories, 6 grams (g) total fat, 33 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 82 milligrams (mg) sodium, 199 mg potassium, 5 g dietary fiber.
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