View Full Version : Berries for Brain Protection

11-23-10, 10:35 AM
By Byron J. Richards CCN (http://www.healthiertalk.com/users/byronrichards) on 11/21/2010

Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. – America is a berry rich country. These wonder foods are well known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due for the most part to the substances that give them color, polyphenols, or more specifically anthocyanins (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/extracts_of_berries_are_readily_absorbed_and_taken _up_in_brain). A new array of emerging gene science is demonstrating that the protective effects of these nutrients to your brain go far beyond their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are intimately involved with the genes that regulate the natural defense systems in your brain.

The United States Department of Agriculture is the world leader in berry-related health research, especially as it involves neuro-protection. Their research over the past 15 years has shown that rats fed berry extracts (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberry_and_strawberry_slow_brain_aging) (blueberry and strawberry) have significantly less neuronal damage and impaired cognitive function as they age, leading researchers to claim back in 1999 that “in addition to their known beneficial effects on cancer and heart disease, phytochemicals present in antioxidant-rich foods may be beneficial in reversing the course of neuronal and behavioral aging.”

In 2005 the USDA researchers began to understand that the health benefits of berries extended beyond their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and were involved with gene-related cell signaling. They were the first to discover that part of the power of berries was their ability to facilitate and maintain normal communication between brain cells (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_improve_neuronal_communication). Later that year these same researchers showed that blueberries could improve neuronal plasticity (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_improve_brain_plasticity) in the hippocampus (memory and spatial function). Plasticity or flexibility of brain structure is a primary sign of health. During Alzheimer’s one of the first areas of the brain to suffer damage is the hippocampus. Later research conducted in the UK shows that blueberries can activate the production of BDNF (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_boost_bdnf_production) (brain derived neurotrophic factor), a key signal that stimulates the production of new brain cells that results in enhanced plasticity – a potent brain anti-aging effect.

Heat shock proteins (HSP) are used by nerve cells to protect themselves against stress. In 2006 USDA researchers showed that HSP levels in older rats decline compared to young rats. When challenged with the standardized toxin known as LPS, the older rats had less HSP activity and greater brain damage. However, supplementing the older rats with blueberry extract (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_rejuvenate_hsp_neuroprotection) completely reversed the age-associated decline in HSP activity and thereby protected the rats from LPS toxic damage.
By 2007 scientists were becoming aware of the extreme importance of glial cells in the brain, which make up 90% of your brain mass. The new science was showing that as glial cells “heat up” from inflammation then brain energy declines, free radical damage really ramps up, and the brain becomes sensitized to excitotoxic damage – including exaggerated damage from high stress. USDA researchers now proved that blueberry could cool of multiple aspects of overheated glial cells (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_reduce_inflammation_in_glial_cells), significantly reducing key brain inflammation. This included turning down unfriendly nitric oxide (iNOS) and TNFa, two potent inducers of brain damage. A 2010 study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina has again proven that blueberry extract can reduce inflammation (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberry_reduces_inflammatory_glial_cell_excess_a ctivation) in these important glial cells.

Another 2007 USDA study exposed rats to whole body radiation which induced significant damage to the brain. A diet fortified with either blueberry or strawberry extract (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_and_strawberries_protect_the_brain_fro m_radiation_damage)prevented the radiation induced damage to the brain. Interestingly, strawberries had the most impact on spatial placement whereas blueberries had the most impact on learning – indicating that various different berries may have different benefits to various brain regions in terms of protection.

In 2008 USDA researchers showed that blueberries enhanced multiple gene functions (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberries_facilitate_genes_regulating_brain_infl ammation) in the brain to better deal with inflammation from a toxic exposure. Considering that the brains of one and all are being exposed to similar toxic stress on a daily basis from general air pollution (not to mention many other issues), it is likely that blueberries are a natural way to help the genes in your brain regulate more efficiently under the exposure to various forms of stress.

In 2009 the USDA researchers (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/berries_and_age-related_cognitive_decline) summarized years of their research. “Antioxidant-rich berries consumed in the diet can positively impact learning and memory in the aged animal. This effect on cognition is thought to be due to the direct interaction of berry polyphenols with aging neurons, reducing the impact of stress-related cellular signals and increasing the capacity of neurons to maintain proper functioning during aging.”

Later in 2009 USDA researchers expanded their berry research to include blackberries (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blackberries_improve_motor_and_cognitive_function) , feeding old rats blackberries to see if it could improve their cognitive function. Blackberries were able to improve motor coordination, balance, and short-term memory. The researchers concluded, “These data support our previous investigations in which we have seen improved motor and cognitive performance in aged rats after supplementation with other berry fruits.”

Earlier this year a small human study of 9 older individuals with beginning signs of memory impairment was conducted. Daily blueberry intake (http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/blueberry_supplementation_improves_memory_in_older _adults) over a 12 week period improved learning, word recall, and symptoms of depression. The authors concluded that “moderate-term blueberry supplementation can confer neurocognitive benefit.”

Fascinating new research at the USDA shows that berries activate the natural house-cleaning process (http://www.wellnessresources.com/health/articles/berries_for_brain_anti-aging/) within your brain so damage does not accumulate and lead to cognitive decline. This finding involves the healthy function of your glial cells. One of their important chores is as a “trash man” or “house cleaner.” They are responsible for a process called autophagy, which removes and recycles debris which would otherwise clog brain function. During aging the autophagy process slows down, clogging brain cells and causing them to malfunction (like trying to prepare food in a dirty kitchen). The researches showed this process is rejuvenated by extracts of berries. The favorite berry of the researchers at USDA is the blueberry, followed by blackberries and strawberries.

Collectively these studies demonstrate that berries, especially blueberries, are highly protective to your brain. Partly this involves their well documented antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. However, a significant body of science shows that they are directly helping to regulate genes to offset stress, improve brain communication, clean up brain waste products, and stimulate the production of new brain cells. This is an impressive body of science showing that berries are good for your brain.


11-23-10, 10:41 AM
Anyone here heard of a BRAX meter? Google it. I recently learned that strawberries are the most contaminated of fruits, but that a BRAX meter shows even organic strawberries to be highly contaminated.

I'm not going to get my undies in a bunch over a pint of organic strawberries when I find them so rarely, but I just wonder whether anyone else has heard something similar?

11-23-10, 01:19 PM
[QUOTE=Islander]Anyone here heard of a BRAX meter? Google it. I recently learned that strawberries are the most contaminated of fruits, but that a BRAX meter shows even organic strawberries to be highly contaminated.

First of all, I think you mean BRIX, not BRAX :) It measures fermentable sugar content as a guide to ripeness, so I'm not sure how using a BRIX meter can tell you level of contamination. Basically a high BRIX tells you there is high nutrient density and organic will almost always test higher than conventional. Possibly someone is extrapolating this to mean low BRIX in organic strawberries equates to contamination but I think that is stretching things. If someone knows more, I'd appreciate a lesson.

11-23-10, 01:52 PM
Thank you for the correction. This was new to me & I didn't have the source in front of me. When I googled Brix I got info on sugar content (useful for wine-making etc.) but when I googled BRIX METER I learned that it supposedly measures other nutrients as well. Not about to run out & buy one, just curious as to whether someone could add to my huge fund of knowledge. :rolleyes:

11-23-10, 02:47 PM
How Brix Meters Work!

It is important to monitor regularly the health of the soil as well as the plants that grow on it. Good soil nutrition helps plants resist disease and insect infestation, leading to better 'keeping' qualities, nutritional values, and flavour characteristics. The practice helps to assure high quality produce which attract the best prices.

Exhaustive soil analysis is certainly necessary, but this is tedious laboratory work. To have a portable, easy-to-maintain system of tracking the progress of the crop, the farmer needs a handy tool. There is one such instrument -- the refractometer, also called a Brix meter, because it reads the Brix value of a liquid.

The Brix value indicates the level of total dissolved solids -- vitamins, minerals, and other soluble compounds but mostly sugars -- in a liquid such as the sap from the leaves and other plant parts. The Brix can also be interpreted as an indication of the nutrient uptake and therefore the health of the plant.

Within the same plant species, the crop with a higher Brix value will contain more sugars, minerals and proteins, and less water. This means the crop will taste sweeter and be more mineral-nutritious. Harvested crops with high sugar content lose less water in storage and better resist frost damage and post-harvest disease.

Using Brix meters
To text Brix content, squeeze some juice from a chosen part of the plant. Drip the fresh liquid on the inclined glass plane of the Brix meter. Hold the instrument against the light and look through the viewfinder for the number (between 0 and 32) indicating the sugar content reading. The higher the reading the higher the sugar content; this is good for the plant.

Between varieties and species of plants, Brix readings can be very different. Some varieties consistently give low Brix values, regardless of how they are grown. Such varieties are likely to be the most vulnerable to disease and insects.

When taking samples of the crop area, it is vital to compare data from the healthy (http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/How-Brix-Meters-Work-/676793#) (normal), weak and super-growing plants. Data from disease-affected or pest-infested areas should also be compared with data from non-affected areas.

In a single plant, Brix values will vary considerably depending on the source of the sample -- mature or young leaves, mature or immature fruit, growing points, petioles, etc. Some organic farming technicians choose petioles (newly mature leaves) since they exude plenty of sap and do not have wide swings in Brix.

Once a plant part has been chosen, all sampling should be taken from that portion. Since sunlight affects photosynthetic activity, sampling should be done always from the same side of the plant.

Other things to watch for are the following:

Samples should be taken from at least 20 plants, all of identical physiological age. On each sampling date, the samples should come from the same plants.

Sampling time is critical and should be done always at the same time of day. Sugar production/storage activity is most active between late morning and early afternoon, so many growers sample during the 10a.m.-12p.m. period. It is not advisable at all to sample in the evening, or when temperatures are above 100oF (37.8oC).

Weather (sunlight, drought, extreme heat, heavy rains, etc.) has significant impact on sugar accumulation. It is important to make notes on weather conditions for every sampling date to help analyse for weather-related changes in Brix values.


11-23-10, 02:48 PM
The most common use of Brix meters is to determine the optimal time for harvesting.

11-23-10, 04:03 PM
I didn't know that-thank you Aaltrude!
How could a Brix meter detect contamination, then?

11-23-10, 04:07 PM
How could a Brix meter detect contamination, then?

From what I know of how a Brix meter works, I find it difficult to know how it possibly could detect contamination.

11-23-10, 05:46 PM
Maybe the poster's intent was merely to indicate nutritional content, but that wasn't what he said. Thank you everyone for clarifying!

11-23-10, 05:49 PM
Maybe the poster's intent was merely to indicate nutritional content, but that wasn't what he said. Thank you everyone for clarifying!
Mebbe he needs more berries:p