Objective: Berries are high in flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins, and improve cognition in experimental studies. We prospectively evaluated whether greater long-term intakes of berries and flavonoids are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older women.
Methods: Beginning in 1980, a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire was administered every 4 years to Nurses' Health Study participants. In 1995-2001, we began measuring cognitive function in 16,010 participants, aged ≥70 years; follow-up assessments were conducted twice, at 2-year intervals. To ascertain long-term diet, we averaged dietary variables from 1980 through the initial cognitive interview. Using multivariate-adjusted, mixed linear regression, we estimated mean differences in slopes of cognitive decline by long-term berry and flavonoid intakes.
Results: Greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline (eg, for a global score averaging all 6 cognitive tests, for blueberries: p-trend = 0.014 and mean difference = 0.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.01-0.07, comparing extreme categories of intake; for strawberries: p-trend = 0.022 and mean difference = 0.03, 95% CI = 0.00-0.06, comparing extreme categories of intake), after adjusting for multiple potential confounders. These effect estimates were equivalent to those we found for approximately 1.5 to 2.5 years of age in our cohort, indicating that berry intake appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. Additionally, in further supporting evidence, greater intakes of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline (p-trends = 0.015 and 0.053, respectively, for the global score).
Interpretation: Higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, appears to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
Copyright © 2012 American Neurological Association.