Background: An anthocyanidin, pelargonidin, primarily found in berries, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is associated with better cognition and reduced Alzheimer's dementia risk.
Objective: This study investigated if pelargonidin or berry intake is associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology in human brains.
Methods: The study was conducted among 575 deceased participants (age at death = 91.3±6.1 years; 70% females) of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, with dietary data (assessed using a food frequency questionnaire) and neuropathological evaluations. Calorie-adjusted pelargonidin intake was modeled in quartiles and berry intake as continuous (servings/week). Mean amyloid-beta load and phosphorylated tau neuronal neurofibrillary tangle density across multiple cortical regions were assessed using immunohistochemistry. Global AD pathology burden, a quantitative summary score of neurofibrillary tangles, and diffuse and neuritic plaques using Bielschowsky silver stains in multiple brain regions, was also assessed.
Results: In a linear regression model adjusted for age at death, sex, education, APOE ɛ4 status, vitamin E, and vitamin C, participants in the highest quartile of pelargonidin intake when compared to those in the lowest quartile, had less amyloid-β load (β (SE) = -0.293 (0.14), p = 0.038), and fewer phosphorylated tau tangles (β (SE) = -0.310, p = 0.051). Among APOE ɛ4 non-carriers, higher strawberry (β (SE) = -0.227 (0.11), p = 0.037) and pelargonidin (Q4 versus Q1: β (SE) = -0.401 (0.16), p = 0.011; p trend = 0.010) intake was associated with less phosphorylated tau tangles, no association was observed in APOE ɛ4 carriers. Berry intake was not associated with AD pathology. However, excluding participants with dementia or mild cognitive impairment at baseline, strawberry (p = 0.004) and pelargonidin (ptrend = 0.007) intake were associated with fewer phosphorylated tau tangles.
Conclusion: Higher intake of pelargonidin, a bioactive present in strawberries, is associated with less AD neuropathology, primarily phosphorylated tau tangles.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease pathology; anthocyanidin; berries; pelargonidin.