Public Release:  More evidence berries have health-promoting properties

Rats protected from irradiation

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Boston, MA--Adding more color to your diet in the form of berries is encouraged by many nutrition experts. The protective effect of berries against inflammation has been documented in many studies. Diets supplemented with blueberries and strawberries have also been shown to improve behavior and cognitive functions in stressed young rats.

To evaluate the protective effects of berries on brain function, specifically the ability of the brain to clear toxic accumulation, researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and University of Maryland Baltimore County recently fed rats a berry diet for 2 months and then looked at their brains after irradiation, a model for accelerated aging. All of the rats were fed berries 2 months prior to radiation and then divided into two groups- one was evaluated after 36 hours of radiation and the other after 30 days.

"After 30 days on the same berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to control," said investigator Shibu Poulose, PhD. "We saw significant benefits to diets with both of the berries, and speculate it is due to the phytonutrients present."

The researchers looked at neurochemical changes in the brain, in particular what is known as autophagy, which can regulate the synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components. It is also the way in which the brain clears toxic accumulations. "Most diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have shown an increased amount of toxic protein. Berries seem to promote autophagy, the brain's natural housekeeping mechanism, thereby reducing the toxic accumulation," said Poulose.

The researchers are currently conducting a human study in older people ages 60-75. "We have a lot of animal work that suggests these compounds will protect the aged brain and reverse some of behavioral deficits. We are hoping it will translate to human studies as well," said Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, the lead investigator conducting the human study.

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This study was funded by the USDA and a grant from NASA.

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Experimental Biology's mission is to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping future and current clinical advances - and to give scientists and clinicians an unparalleled opportunity to hear from colleagues working on similar biomedical problems using different disciplines. With six sponsoring societies and another 20 U.S. and international guest societies, the annual meeting brings together scientists from throughout the United States and the world, representing dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research. The meeting also offers a wide spectrum of professional development sessions.

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The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. ASN is dedicated to bringing together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. Founded in 1928, ASN publishes The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), The Journal of Nutrition (JN), and Advances in Nutrition and provides a wide range of education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice, and education. Visit ASN online at http://www.nutrition.org.

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