The long sought-after fountain of youth may have been hidden in plain sight all along. Three new studies suggest strawberries may be associated with slowing down aging of the brain, cardiovascular system and gut microbiome.
Keeping the mind sharp as we age
As a person ages, the brain can experience changes that result in impairments in learning, memory, gait, and balance. Sometimes these changes lead to early cognitive decline, disability, or falls among older adults.
In a recent study by Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale and her team at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 37 healthy older adults participated in a two-arm trial in which they consumed either freeze-dried strawberry powder beverages (24g/day, equivalent to two cups of fresh strawberries) or a calorie-matched control powder for 90 days.
Young at heart
Endothelium is a thin layer of cells that lines every blood vessel in the body. It's responsible for the relaxation and constriction of veins and arteries, playing a major role in blood flow, blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, and wound healing. High total cholesterol and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) can impair the function of the endothelium, clog arteries, and lead to heart disease, particularly in later years of life.
A new study from Dr. Britt Burton Freeman's team of researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology asked middle-aged adults with moderately-high LDL cholesterol to drink beverages two times a day made from freeze-dried strawberry powder (25g in each) or a control powder for four weeks. After completing their first assigned beverage, they switched to the other one (strawberry/control) for an additional four weeks.
The health of the endothelium, measured by flow-mediated dilation, improved in the strawberry group one hour after drinking the beverage. Systolic blood pressure decreased two hours after drinking the strawberry beverage compared to the control, and this was more pronounced four weeks after the strawberry intervention.
The findings suggest that strawberries may improve endothelial function and be considered a specific food to include in a heart-healthy diet for aging adults with moderately-high cholesterol.
Promoting "longevity" bugs in the gut
Strawberries act as prebiotics and may increase gut bacteria associated with lean body weight, health, and longevity, according to a new study out of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The pilot study led by Dr. Zhaoping Li and her team at the Center for Human Nutrition considered whether strawberries would alter the gut microbiota. Rich in vitamin C and polyphenols, strawberries have already shown their potential to decrease LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, insulin resistance, and other disease risk factors.
Something as simple as making strawberries a regular part of the diet may be the key to delaying aging of both the mind and the body.
For more information: newswire.ca