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A short stack a day may keep the Alzheimer's away

March 29, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Fighting memory loss could be as easy—and delicious—as eating blueberry pancakes drizzled with maple syrup.

Two presentations at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, found cognitive benefits of blueberries and pure maple syrup.

For the first time at the symposium, maple syrup was added to the list of foods that showed promise in protecting brain cells from the damage of Alzheimer’s disease.

"Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combatting Alzheimer's disease," says Navindra P. Seeram, the ACS symposium organizer, in a press release. "And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer's disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. However, further animal and eventually human studies would be required to confirm these initial findings."

Donald Weaver, PhD, director of the Krembil Research Institute at the University of Toronto, found pure maple syrup that comes directly from the sap of a maple tree may help prevent beta amyloid and tau peptide proteins from clumping together and forming brain plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases.

In another study, Seeram, PhD, associate professor in pharmacognosy and head of the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory group at the University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with researchers from Texas State University also found that maple syrup extract may help prolong the lifespan for people already diagnosed with the disease by preventing the fibrillation, or tangling, of beta amyloid proteins.

Another super food, blueberries, loaded in antioxidants and well-cited for their potential to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer may also help prevent against Alzheimer’s. Robert Krikorian, PhD, and his colleagues at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center conducted two human studies.

The most promising findings were in a study of 47 adults age 68 and older with mild cognitive impairment. Researchers gave them either freeze-dried blueberry powder, equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks. Researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which showed increased brain activity in those who ate the blueberry powder.

"The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts," Krikorian says in a press release, adding based on both studies blueberries might be most beneficial for people who already show signs of cognitive impairment. 

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