Berries Activate Brain Cleanup

Blueberries, strawberries and acai berries activate a natural brain mechanism to clean up proteins linked to memory loss in the elderly, U.S. researchers say.

 Shibu Poulose and the late James Joseph — both of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston — focused on why nerve function declines with aging. Cells called microglia are the housekeepers and in a process called autophagy, they remove and recycle biochemical debris that otherwise would interfere with brain function, Poulose says.

 “But in aging, microglia fail to do their work and debris builds up,” Poulose says in a statement. “In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain. Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries.”