An anthocyanidin in strawberries may fend off Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reports (J Alzheimer's Dis. 2022;88(2):653-661).
Strawberries are a popular and widely consumed berry among Americans. According to USDA, per capita strawberry consumption in the United States has steadily grown since 1980, reaching 7.9 pounds of strawberries per person in 2013. The trend, USDA reported, is the result of growing awareness of the health benefits of strawberries, which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Strawberries are also an abundant source of pelargonidin, an anthocyanidin that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, according to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, more than 55 million people around the world are living with dementia. Every 20 years, that figure doubles, putting the number of people living with dementia at close to 140 million in 2050.
For the study, researchers used data from an ongoing long-term study conducted by Rush University’s Memory and Aging Project (MAP). The data comprised 575 deceased participants with complete dietary information, which was collected using a food frequency questionnaire for up to nearly 20 years of follow-up prior to death, and brain autopsies after death. The participants were, on average, 91.3 years old when they died.
During the study, participants completed annual standardized testing for cognitive ability in five areas: episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability and perceptual speed. Researchers also assessed amyloid-beta load and phosphorylated tau neuronal neurofibrillary tangle density in the brain—each considered pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
The results showed participants who consumed the most pelargonidin compared to those who consumed the least had less amyloid-beta load and fewer phosphorylated tau tangles.
Among participants who carried the apolipoprotein E 4 (APOE4) gene, which is considered the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, higher strawberry and pelargonidin intake was associated with less phosphorylated tau tangles, researchers found.
The associations were more robust among participants without dementia or mild cognitive impairment at baseline.
“Higher intake of pelargonidin, a bioactive present in strawberries, is associated with less [Alzheimer’s disease] neuropathology, primarily phosphorylated tau tangles,” researchers wrote.
The potential positive effects of pelargonidin could be the result of its anti-inflammatory properties, according to researchers, which may reduce neuroinflammation and cytokine production, which are increasingly recognized for their potential role in Alzheimer’s development.