Why do neuroscientists all eat berries? Whenever we listen to talks about lifestyle by brain experts, or interview them ourselves for our books, they reveal that they eat berries – with blueberries often top of the list.
We know that the dark purple colour of blueberries (and blackcurrants, blackberries etc) comes from flavonoids, the deep pigmentation which comes with serious health benefits. Research published last summer found that, over a 20-year period, older adults who had the highest intake of flavonoids (from berries, tea, apples, pears, red wine) had the lowest risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. Anthocyanins, the flavonoids which gives berries their dark colour was particularly linked to reduced dementia risk: consuming no berries at all was linked to a four-fold increase in risk. You can read more about this study here
Anthocyanins aren’t the only benefits of berries, however. Blueberries are also a rich source of pterostilbene, a polyphenol (the antioxidant compounds found in plants) which activates sirtuins in our bodies. These enzymes are vital to our epigenome – the instruction manual which controls how our genes operate. When this process goes wrong, sirtuins act like paramedics, rushing to the scene to repair damaged genetic material. They decline with age, so repair mechanisms falter, which is why we’re more prone to illnesses and viruses as we get older.
A new anti-oxidant on the block?
Pterostilbene is the hot new(-ish) antioxidant on the block and there’s a lot of excitement in the research world about its benefits. Multiple research papers have been published this winter alone, extolling the potential power of pterostilbene to facilitate everything from healing acute lung injury to enhancing autophagy (the process by which the body burns up damaged or broken cells, which in turns reduces the inflammation which ages us).
You might remember about 10 years ago, hearing about a polyphenol in red wine which could enhance longevity – resveratrol. Wine drinkers rejoiced, but, a decade and vast amounts of research later, and scientists are no closer to turning resveratrol into a miracle pill. Pterostilbene is, structurally, closely related to resveratrol but survives in the body longer, so may be of more use to us.
EAT WELL TO AGE WELL EVENING CLASS
We know that what we eat makes a huge difference to how we age: where it gets difficult is staying on track with healthy eating, and making sense of all the science in our own kitchens. That’s why I’ve distilled everything I’ve learned through almost seven years of writing about ageing well, and my coaching practice, into a six-week evening class to help you transform your diet, created healthy longevity and reduce dementia risk. I’ll hold your hand through the whole process, and give you individualised support. All the details are in the link below. We start on Tuesday 16th Feb.
Spiced blueberry compote serves 3-4
This is a super-simple, anthocyanin-packed dessert that gives you plenty of anti-oxidants without any added sugar. It’s gorgeous for breakfast too, or on top of overnight oats.
- 400g frozen blueberries
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp cornflour
- Juice and zest of half an orange
- 2 tsp Haskapa or other freeze-dried berry powder (optional)
To serve: natural Greek yoghurt and toasted flaked almonds
Mix the orange juice and cornflour in a small bowl and stir well to make sure there are no lumps. Tip the blueberries into a pan (no need to defrost first) and heat gently until they start to release their juices. Add the spice and cornflour mix. Continue to cook for about five minutes until the berries are breaking down and the mixture starts to thicken and look glossy. Stir in the berry powder (if using).
Pour the mixture into individual serving dishes and chill until needed (this will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge). Serve topped with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of nuts.
YOUTH AND EARTH DISCOUNT
In my last blog post I wrote about taking a supplement made by a British-based company Youth & Earth. Not affiliated etc etc but they’ve kindly given us a 15% discount code – AGEWELL15 – for followers of The Age-Well Project to use the first time you buy anything from the site. Of course, do your own research and decide if supplements are right for you before you start taking any.