A new study into strawberry consumption has made some fruitful findings – eating the popular berries on a daily basis could help to reduce the risk of middle-aged people developing dementia in later life.
We might think that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but science is beginning to suggest that berries may well do so too. Back in 2022, researchers found that adding blueberries to the daily diet of insulin-resistant (also known as prediabetic), middle-aged individuals could help protect them against cognitive decline.
The same team has now extended this research by investigating the potential benefits of strawberries, aiming to uncover if the berries can improve cognitive performance – think long-term memory and task switching – and metabolic health, and if there’s a link between the two.
“Both strawberries and blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been implicated in a variety of berry health benefits such as metabolic and cognitive enhancements,” said study author Robert Krikorian in a statement. “There is epidemiological data suggesting that people who consume strawberries or blueberries regularly have a slower rate of cognitive decline with aging.”
The study recruited 30 individuals aged between 50 to 65 years old, all of whom were overweight and had reported experiencing mild cognitive decline. For two weeks before the study commenced, these participants were asked to refrain from eating any berries or berry products.
Once the 12-week study began, all received a powdered supplement to be mixed with water and taken with breakfast on a daily basis; half received a powder containing the equivalent of one cup of strawberries, and the other received a placebo. They also had to complete cognitive tests at the beginning and end of the 12 weeks and their mood and metabolic state – level of insulin resistance and cholesterol levels – were tracked throughout.
Analysis of the data revealed that those who had received the strawberry supplement showed less difficulty in recognizing and recalling information and a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. Krikorian suggested that this was due to “enhanced executive ability that would provide better emotional control and coping and perhaps better problem-solving.”
However, the study did not find any impact on the patients’ metabolic health, positive or negative. This contrasts with previous research that showed strawberries could have a positive effect, though Krikorian put this down to these studies using a higher dosage of strawberry powder.
Despite this result, the researchers still believe there is a potential link between strawberries, cognitive function, and metabolic health, with one key connection – inflammation.
“Executive abilities begin to decline in midlife and excess abdominal fat, as in insulin resistance and obesity, will tend to increase inflammation, including in the brain,” explained Krikorian. “So, one might consider that our middle-aged, overweight, prediabetic sample had higher levels of inflammation that contributed to at least mild impairment of executive abilities. Accordingly, the beneficial effects we observed might be related to moderation of inflammation in the strawberry group.”
Future research will help to determine if this is the case and solidify the cognitive results, the key to which is a greater number of participants and differing dosages of strawberry supplement, according to the researchers.
The study is published in the journal Nutrients.