Consuming strawberries daily might hold a sweet promise for those concerned about dementia risks, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Cincinnati. The study’s findings, published last month in the journal Nutrients, suggest that incorporating strawberries into the daily diet could potentially reduce the risk of dementia, particularly for individuals in middle age.
The 12-week study focused on 30 overweight participants who had reported mild cognitive impairment. Participants were instructed to refrain from consuming berries, with the exception of a daily supplement powder packet mixed with water and consumed during breakfast. The participants, aged between 50 and 65, were divided into two groups: one received a powder equivalent to one cup of whole strawberries (standard serving size), while the other received a placebo.
The researchers closely monitored the participants’ long-term memory, mood, and metabolic health throughout the study. Results indicated that the group receiving the strawberry powder exhibited improved performance on a word-list learning test and experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.
Professor Robert Krikorian, an expert in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at UC College of Medicine, emphasized the presence of anthocyanins, antioxidants found in both strawberries and blueberries. These compounds have been linked to various health benefits, including metabolic and cognitive enhancements. Krikorian, who previously investigated the health effects of blueberry consumption, pointed to epidemiological data suggesting a slower cognitive decline in individuals who regularly consume strawberries or blueberries.
In addition to anthocyanins, strawberries contain ellagitannins and ellagic acid, known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties. Krikorian hypothesized that the strawberries in the study might have contributed to improved cognitive function by reducing inflammation in the brain.
The professor noted that executive abilities tend to decline in midlife, and excess abdominal fat, insulin resistance, and obesity can elevate inflammation, including in the brain. Therefore, the observed positive effects in the strawberry group may be linked to the moderation of inflammation.
While acknowledging support from the California Strawberry Commission, which provided funding and strawberry and placebo powders, the university clarified that the commission had no involvement in the study’s design, data collection, analysis, or publication of results.
Krikorian emphasized the need for future research with a larger participant pool and varied strawberry doses to further explore the potential cognitive benefits associated with strawberry consumption. The study highlights the potential impact of dietary choices on cognitive health, offering a hopeful avenue for addressing cognitive decline, particularly in middle-aged individuals.