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May 6, 2012
Why Men Should Be Eating Berries Daily


Eating strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and blackberries can significantly reduce risk of developing Parkinson's disease in men, suggest researchers.



In a study by British and U.S. experts, men who ate the fruits along with other foods rich in flavonoids such as, tea, apples and red wine were found to be 40 per cent less likely to develop the brain disease.

A diet rich in phytochemicals from berries could help improve brain health in several ways, such as improving communication pathways and protecting against oxidative stress.

And those who ate berries at least once a week could cut their risk of developing the disease by a quarter compared with those who never ate them.

"A growing body of preclinical and clinical research has identified neurological benefits associated with the consumption of berry fruits," said the reviewers.

The findings by Harvard University and the University of East Anglia (UEA) add to the growing body of evidence that regular consumption of some flavonoids can have a marked effect on human health.

Recent studies have shown that these compounds can offer protection against a wide range of diseases including heart disease, hypertension, some cancers and dementia.

This latest study is the first study in humans to show that flavonoids can protect neurons against diseases of the brain such as Parkinson's.

Around 130,000 men and women took part in the research. More than 800 had developed Parkinson's disease within 20 years of follow-up.

After a detailed analysis of their diets and adjusting for age and lifestyle, male participants who ate the most flavonoids were shown to be 40 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate the least. No similar link was found for total flavonoid intake in women.

The research was led by Dr Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with Prof Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition, Norwich Medical School at UEA.

"These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits," said Prof Cassidy.

"This is the first study in humans to look at the associations between the range of flavonoids in the diet and the risk of developing Parkinson's disease and our findings suggest that a sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects," he stated.

Prof Gao said: "Interestingly, anthocyanins and berry fruits, which are rich in anthocyanins, seem to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease in pooled analyses."

"Participants who consumed one or more portions of berry fruits each week were around 25 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, relative to those who did not eat berry fruits. Given the other potential health effects of berry fruits, such as lowering risk of hypertension as reported in our previous studies, it is good to regularly add these fruits to your diet," he added.

Flavonoids are a group of naturally occurring, bioactive compunds found in many plant-based foods and drinks. In this study the main protective effect was from higher intake of anthocyanins, which are present in berries and other fruits and vegetables including aubergines, blackcurrants and blackberries.

Those who consumed the most anthocyanins had a 24 per cent reduction in risk of developing Parkinson's disease and strawberries and blueberries were the top two sources in the US diet.

Further research will reveal whether these benefits are a result of individual compounds shared between berry fruits or whether the unique combinations of chemicals in each berry fruit simply have similar effects.

The findings have been published in the journal Neurology.



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