Study: strawberries can help protect against brain inflammation and Alzheimer’s
Strawberries are nutritious and they are full of beneficial antioxidants and plant compounds. According to a study, consuming strawberries can also help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease by reducing inflammation.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In the study, researchers from Rush University in Chicago, Illinois, discovered that adults older than 65 who regularly consumed strawberries had fewer tau proteins in their brains. Higher concentrations of tau proteins are linked to Alzheimer’s.
Strawberries, brain health and Alzheimer’s
For the study, the research team examined the brains of 575 deceased patients with an average age of 91 years. None of the patients had Alzheimer’s disease.
For more than two decades before their deaths, each participant answered an annual survey about their diet. The researchers used the survey results to keep track of the patients’ diets.
The patients also had their cognitive ability tested annually. Results from an autopsy revealed that the group that consumed the most strawberries had the lowest concentration of tau proteins.
The researchers reported that they did not find any link between tau protein levels and those who had the APOE-4 gene, which is believed to raise the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Julie Schneider, the neuropathologist who led the study, explained that the research team suspects the anti-inflammatory properties of pelargonidin — an active compound in strawberries — may decrease overall neuroinflammation, which may reduce cytokine production.
Cytokines are proteins produced by cells that can trigger an inflammatory response.
Inflammation in the brain may be caused by many factors such as infections, extreme stress and a lack of sleep. These are also risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Puja Agarwal, a nutritional epidemiologist who was also involved in the research, advised that eating strawberries is a “simple change” that anyone could make to their regular diet. However, he acknowledged that the study was observational, meaning it wasn’t clear whether the strawberries themselves reduced the risk.
Agarwal said that further research is needed to learn more about the role of nutrition in Alzheimer’s, but the study findings suggest that certain dietary components, like berries, may offer significant benefits for brain health.
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating condition affecting over 6.5 million Americans. By 2050, this figure is expected to more than double. Early signs of Alzheimer’s include difficulties remembering recent events or conversations or where something was left.
In the last stages of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s might repeat themselves or questions over and over. They can also get lost even in familiar places and have trouble finding the right words to identify common objects.
Health benefits of strawberries
Strawberries are one of the top sources of pelargonidin, a compound that is believed to be an anti-inflammatory. Other sources of pelargonidin include kidney beans, plums, radishes and raspberries.
Strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) is a hybrid of two wild strawberry species from North America and Chile. These berries are bright red, juicy and sweet.
Strawberries are full of vitamin C and manganese. They also contain decent amounts of folate or vitamin B9 and potassium.
Strawberries are full of antioxidants and plant compounds, which are believed to offer benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.
Healthy strawberry desserts to try
Following a balanced diet is key to your overall health. Eat lots of nutritious foods like strawberries and try some of the healthy recipes below.
Strawberry oatmeal bars
Instead of buying oatmeal or granola bars, make strawberry oatmeal bars at home using fresh ingredients and none of the added preservatives often used in store-bought oatmeal bars.
Ingredients for 16 strawberry bars:
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (Use gluten-free oats if preferred.)
- 2 cups strawberries (about 10 ounces), diced small and divided
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (Use 1:1 baking flour to make gluten-free bars.)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (For vegan/dairy-free bars, use melted coconut oil.)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 1/2 small lemon
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar divided
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Ingredients for the vanilla glaze (optional if you prefer a sweeter bar):
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 F.
- Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Let the paper overhang from two sides like makeshift handles.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Pour the melted butter into the oat mixture and stir until it forms clumps and all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest into an even layer at the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- Scatter half of the sliced strawberries over the crust. Sprinkle the cornstarch evenly over the top, then sprinkle the lemon juice followed by the half a tablespoon of the granulated sugar.
- Scatter the remaining berries over the crust, then the remaining half a tablespoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the top. You should have some fruit showing through.
- Bake the bars for 35 to 40 minutes. The bars are done when the fruit is bubbly and the crumb topping smells toasty and turns golden.
- Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Speed up this process by refrigerating the pan.
- Prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, briskly whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add more milk if you want a thinner consistency.
- Use the parchment-paper “handles” to lift the bars from the pan. Drizzle with glaze and slice before serving.
Blueberry-strawberry smoothie bowl
Start your day with a tasty and nutritious blueberry-strawberry smoothie bowl.
Ingredients for 1 serving:
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 3/4 cup fresh blueberries, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1/3 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup unsweetened blueberry or pomegranate juice
- 1/2 ripe peeled avocado
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
- Place the blueberry juice, yogurt, half of the blueberries and avocado in a blender. Blend until well combined or for about 15 seconds.
- Add the ice to the blueberry mixture and blend until smooth or for about 30 seconds.
- Pour the smoothie mixture into a bowl. Top with the remaining half of the blueberries, strawberries and almonds before eating.
Eat lots of fresh fruits like strawberries to boost your brain health and overall well-being.
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