It s the berries!

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Berries may slow memory loss. No, this isn't a headline from The Onion, or from another Dr. Oz Show these are the actual conclusions of a study published in the Annals of Neurology, wh noted by some otherwise reputable media venues.

For the study, researchers from Brigham Women s Hospital in Boston analyzed data on over 16,000 women from the Nurses Health Study, which has kept track of participants diets since 1980. The authors measured memory via three phone interviews from 1995 until 2001, focusing on all the women over age 70 who had no known history of brain impairment.

When the data were sufficiently dredged, it was discovered that those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries (on average, a single half-cup serving of blueberries, or two half-cup servings of strawberries weekly) had a later onset of developing memory problems, compared to those women who consumed the least. The difference in cognitive decline was equivalent to approximately two-and-a-half years of aging.

But upon digging a little deeper, the investigators also found that women who ate the most berries also exercised more and had higher incomes two factors that would have a much more profound effect on preventing cognitive decline than a preference for berries. The researchers claim that they accounted for these confounding variables, but ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross is not convinced. This study amounts to nothing more than data dredging, he says. And frankly, I m starting to lose faith in the journals that review such research and deem it worthy of publication.

Previous mouse research has shown similar effects in little rodents, according to the study authors. Exactly how cognitive function and dietary berries are measured in mice is not clear to us. But as we here at ACSH always reiterate, mice are not little people; thus the results from these types of studies should be taken with a piece of cheese.

And ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava adds, No one has yet convincingly shown that consumption of antioxidants from berries or from anything else, in fact has any beneficial effect on human health. Of course, for anyone wishing to add more berries to their diet, go right ahead only don t do so with any expectation that it will ward off cancer or protect against memory loss.