Berries Benefit Brain By Clearing Toxic Protein Accumulation, Animal Study Finds

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Berries could play an important role in clearing the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain, according to a new study in mice.

The research, presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting, showed that the brains of rats that consumed berries for two months were better protected against radiation, which is meant to induce accelerated aging in the mice.

Specifically, researchers found that the berry consumption was linked with increased autophagy, which is the natural process the brain undergoes to clear out accumulation of toxic proteins. They noted that phytonutrients -- plant chemicals -- in berries may be responsible for this effect; berries are known to be high in anthocyanins.

Researchers said that the findings could be especially meaningful if they also apply to humans, since diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease involve accumulation of toxic proteins. The next step is a study, currently being conducted, on humans ages 60 to 75 to see if berries' have the same sort of effect.

Even though the findings have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal -- and thus should be considered preliminary -- a past study from Harvard researchers showed that eating berries regularly could help slow cognitive decline in older people, HuffPost's Catherine Pearson reported.

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