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Eating berries may stave off memory decline

New study shows that berries may prolong your cognitive abilities

One of the most terrifying prospects of old age is the thought that my mind might go before the rest of me does. I don't much fear dying--hey, we've all got to do it sometime--but the idea of hanging around in a weird, half-conscious limbo where I'm alive but don't recognize any of the people I used to love is really, really scary. I'm the all or nothing sort. I'd rather just peace out in a sudden car crash than wither away with a slowly emptying brain. 

The mechanisms by which brains decay are not 100% understood, but it's generally accepted that mental stimulation works much in the same way physical exercise does: you can do it often to prevent atrophying. Sudoku puzzles, crosswords and FreeCell can all help to stave off the effects of diseases like Alzheimer's. Turns out they're not the only things, either. A new study indicates that a diet rich in berries might help you hold on to your senses for longer. 

The study surveyed more than 16,000 women over the age of 70, asking them questions about their diet and their cognition. The data showed that women who ate at least a half a cup of blueberries or a whole cup of strawberries were lucid for two and a half years longer on average than women who didn't eat berries at all. So if you want to buy yourself some extra thinking time before your grey matter disintegrates, better keep wolfing down those fruits.

To be fair, the study was more expansive than it was strictly scientific. Researchers trusted women to recollect their own eating habits, but had no way of proving that the women who said they ate berries actually did as frequently as they claimed. And the study didn't screen for people with a genetic tendency towards Alzheimer's, nor did it take into account any of the other factors that might contribute to the disease or similar conditions. Some people have also raised eyebrows at the fact that the study was funded in part by the California Strawberry Commission. 

Despite its flaws, the study does seem to make sense with what we know about berries. They contain high levels of antioxidants, which help protect your cells from damage and mutation. That's good news from all kinds of cells, brain cells included. And while they may not be the only great source of antioxidants you can add to your diet--most fresh, whole fruits and vegetables will do the trick--they are a tasty way to brighten up your daily meals. So grab a handful and keep on thinkin'.