Elizabeth Devore, Berry Research

A study led by Elizabeth Devore (above) finds that just two or more servings of berries each week can reduce memory decline. But will that news change your eating habits?

This past week, it’s been all over the news: Berries keep your brain sharp.

The research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) found that a high intake of flavonoid-rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, can delay memory decline in older women by 2.5 years.

This research may sound oddly familiar, and perhaps you’re wondering: Should I pay attention, or is this just one more in a long line-up of research studies on the health benefits of berries?

The truth is: This study is different. Previous studies on berries and memory were conducted in animals or very small groups of humans. This latest research focuses on a large sample of women and is unusually comprehensive.

“What makes our study unique is the amount of data we analyzed over such a long period of time,” explains Elizabeth Devore, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH and the lead author on this study. “No other berry study has been conducted on such a large scale.”

Devore’s research team is one of many at Brigham and Women’s Hospital using data from the Nurses’ Health Study. The Study began in 1976, when 121,700 female nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 completed health and lifestyle questionnaires, which they have continued to submit every two years since. Beginning in 1980, participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption, and from 1995 to 2001, memory was measured multiple times, at 2-year intervals, in 16,010 of the women over age 70.

Simply put, Devore’s study is the first to investigate the effect of berries on such a large population. “We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women,” notes Devore. “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults.”

It turns out that, according to the study, it takes just two or more servings of strawberries or blueberries each week to reduce memory decline. That means that a simple change in diet – making sure to eat just a couple servings of berries each week – might help us all keep our memories intact for a longer period of time.

Of course, while all of this may or may not be news to you, this question remains: How, if at all, will this latest research change your eating habits? Let us know.

– Linda W, Jessica M

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