New Human Study: A drink containing a mixture of berries, including elderberry improves brain function and cardiovascular health.
Berries are key ingredients in any healthy lifestyle. This is partly due to their high content in polyphenols, fiber and vitamins. Daily consumption of berries can help us prevent many chronic diseases including heart disease.
One major health concern for older individuals is the decline of their cognitive abilities. As scary as the thought of losing one´s brain function may sounds, there are a number of ways to slow down, or even prevent the loss of our mental abilities as we grow older.
Regular exercise is the most obvious way to keep the brain healthy. Not only does exercise increase the function of our heart and blood vessels, it also increases blood supply to the brain.
Reading, and other forms of mental exercise like solving puzzles, is also a good way to maintain and improve our brain function.
Diet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of improving brain function, yet our diet may have the biggest effect on our brains. Diet directly affects the cardiovascular system, oxidative status, immunity, inflammation and with that, our brains.
Recent Scientific Study
The effects of diet on both our cardiovascular system and the brain was recently investigated by a group of researchers from Lund University in Sweden. (1)
In their randomized crossover study, forty healthy participants between 50 – 70 years of age were given a drink containing a mixture of berries, or a placebo drink daily for five weeks. The berry drink contained 150g blueberries, 50g blackcurrant, 50g elderberry, 50g lingonberries, 50g strawberry, and 100g tomatoes, making a total of 795 mg polyphenols and 11g fiber. The placebo drink was water-based and formulated to contain the same amount of sugars as found in the berry drink.
The brain tests conducted included working memory capacity, selective attention, and psychomotor reaction time. The cardiovascular tests included blood pressure, fasting blood concentrations of glucose, insulin, blood lipids, inflammatory markers, and markers of oxidative stress.
Consumption of the berry drink resulted in participants having significantly reduced total- and LDL cholesterol (also known as ´bad´ cholesterol) compared to their values before the experiment, as well as compared to the placebo group.
The water-based placebo drink resulted in participants having higher blood glucose concentrations compared to their values at the beginning of the study, as well as a trend showing an increase in insulin concentrations. This adds validity to the use of polyphenol-rich berry ingredients in the management of blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes risk.
In the area of cognitive function, subjects who took the berry drink had better results in the working memory test compared to the placebo group. No significant differences were found in the other cognitive tests.
In their conclusion, the researchers confirmed what previous studies had shown, which is that consuming berries may play a preventive role in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and associated cognitive decline.
Black elderberry and blackcurrant have been known to have potent benefits for the cardiovascular system, and also to offer cognitive benefits. It comes as no surprise that they were included in the mixed berry drink since they are among the berries with the highest polyphenol contents.
A study published in the Journal Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes showed that blackcurrant may have significant benefits for blood circulation and brain health and in prevention of Alzheimer´s disease.
Those benefits however were only noticed when the polyphenol-rich ingredient used in the study was extracted with a mechanical membrane ultrafiltration technology as opposed to an alcohol extract.
A recent study presented at the Vitafoods trade fair in 2017 suggested cardiovascular and ergogenic benefits after elderberry consumption in human subjects.
In conclusion, these studies show that consuming berry products regularly may just be the trick to staying healthy physically and mentally as we age.
(Also see our article: New study: Eating foods rich in antioxidants corresponds to a reduced risk of diabetes type 2)