Berries for Your Brain!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2004, Dr. David Sinclair and colleagues published a paper identifying STACS, sirtuin activating compounds. Sirtuins are histone deacetylases that become active during caloric restriction. Two sirtuins SIRT1 and SIRT3  are associated with a host of caloric restriction benefits.

The hope was that by identifying STACS that calorie restriction would lead to the discovery of calorie restriction mimetic, substances that produce CR benefits without the need to limit calories.

The most famous STAC identified so far is resveratrol. Other STACS were identified too in the original paper, including anthocyanins, compounds found in high concentrations in some fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The benefits of anthocyanins are so well documented that LivingTheCRWay created “Longevity Foods,” a regularly updated chart, listing anthocyanin and proanthocyanin content in popular CR Way foods.

While it may be unrealistic to expect that resveratrol or any CR mimetic will produce all CR benefits, regular meals of high anthocyanin foods might be very beneficial and are part of our strategy for enhancing the effects of a calorie restriction lifestyle – particularly in the brain.

Consider this study, suggesting that blueberries benefit memory:

Anthocyanins in aged blueberry-fed rats are found centrally and may enhance memory.

Nutrional Neuroscience. 2005 Apr;8 (2):111-20.

Andres-Lacueva C1, Shukitt-Hale B, Galli RL, Jauregui O, Lamuela-Raventos RM, Joseph JA.


Research has shown that fruits and vegetables containing high levels of polyphenolics (flavonoids) display high total antioxidant activity. Our laboratory found that various fruit and vegetable extracts, particularly blueberry (BB), were effective in reversing age-related deficits in neuronal signaling and behavioral parameters following 8 weeks of feeding, possibly due to their polyphenolic content.

However, it was unclear if these phytonutrients were able to directly access the brain from dietary BB supplementation (BBS). The present study examined whether different classes of polyphenols could be found in brain areas associated with cognitive performance following BBS. Thus, 19 month old F344 rats were fed a control or 2% BB diet for 8-10 weeks and tested in the Morris water maze (MWM), a measure of spatial learning and memory. LC-MS analyses of anthocyanins in the diet and subsequently in different brain regions of BBS and control rats were carried out.

Several anthocyanins (cyanidin-3-O-beta-galactoside, cyanidin-3-O-beta-glucoside, cyanidin-3-O-beta-arabinose, malvidin-3-O-beta-galactoside, malvidin-3-O-beta-glucoside, malvidin-3-O-beta-arabinose, peonidin-3-O-beta-arabinose and delphinidin-3-O-beta-galactoside) were found in the cerebellum, cortex, hippocampus or striatum of the BBS rats, but not the controls.

These findings are the first to suggest that polyphenolic compounds are able to cross the blood brain barrier and localize in various brain regions important for learning and memory. Correlational analyses revealed a relationship between MWM performance in BBS rats and the total number of anthocyanin compounds found in the cortex.

These findings suggest that these compounds may deliver their antioxidant and signaling modifying capabilities centrally.

PMID: 16053243

I like that the blueberry extract anthocyanins ended up in parts of the brain that matter and were not just eliminated without effect.

People often think of blueberries as their anthocyanin source, but the new Red Cabbage with Tarragon and Lemon Eggplant Delight recipes are high in anthocyanins too. As Brain Booster members prepare for the teleconference on Sunday, February 15, think of other fruits and vegetables that could bathe your brain in anthocyanins. We’ve just added aronia berries and tart cherries to our menu. The teleconference theme: Berries for your Brain!

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