Power Up with Health-boosting, Age-defying Berries

Power Up with Health-boosting, Age-defying Berries

When we begin the process of identifying ingredients for a formula at 4 Organics, we build a working list of potential plants, micronutrients, etc, and we always immediately start with the hardiest species. While all plants offer us value, science has shown that often the most beneficial are those that help us fight off environmental toxins and attacksIt is a consistent fact that the most supportive compounds are a direct result of biology under duress (kind of like how the best artists come from a life of chaos.) This simply means that the harder a plant has to fight to survive, the more powerful its defense mechanisms.

Plants develop strategies for defending against disease and attacks. 

Obviously, anytime a plant lives in an environment that is challenging, it must do more work to survive. Those that are successful produce specific nutrients and compounds (and other techniques) that allow them to handle everything from extremes of temperature and climate, to predation, bacteria, fungi, and poor water and soil. Many of these compounds, what we call adaptogens, are directly responsible for the plant's ability to deal with these challenges and thrive when others do not.

Hardships result in stress, prolonged stress leads to disease, and so finding ways to cope with increased stress is essential to the plant's continued well being. As an example, Czech researchers were the first to discover that some plants produce phytoecdysteroids, compounds that mimic insect steroids, inhibiting developmental molting, and eventually killing the attacking insect. Their discovery that when mammals ingest these compounds, they gain the same adaptogenic benefits led to a whole slew of natural "tonic" medicines (Bathori 2002.)

Humans can benefit from these adaptogenic responses.

The most exciting aspect of this biochemical defense mechanism is that it is transferable. When we consume the plants, we gain the adaptogenic benefits of these defensive powerhouse compounds (Sterling and Eyer, 1988). This is why, as I said, we always jump right to the hardy species first. They always have the most potent compounds for fighting off the ravages of time, disease, toxins, physical degeneration, and dietary deficiencies. No matter the species, if it is struggling to survive in a difficult environment, it will produce valuable health-boosting compounds that are always of great benefit to humans. These compounds boost allostasis and homeostasis, which balance the body's systems and reduce stress levels. They help an organism remain stable in the face of environmental change. (Carrasco and Van De Kar, 2003.)

Even though they have been used for millennia in tyraditional medicine, probably the first official use of adaptogens was in 1943, during WWII, when the People’s Commissars Council of the USSR required scientists to find some kind of tonic to strengthen the health of workers in the defense industry (Panossian, 2003). The research focused on finding plants that would increase the protective state of resistance during conditions of stress, and initial studies by N.V. Lazarev found evidence that ingestion of certain plant extracts reduced stress and improved resistance in laboratory animals. Since then, adaptogens have been well tested and their benefits clearly extend to humans.

Berries produce the most powerful health-supporting compounds.

Of all the plants, those that regularly top the list for most potent benefits to health are the berries. Their tiny size belies their amazing strength. They are often found thriving in harsh, sandy soils and in climates inhospitable to many other varieties, like dry conditions and at high altitudes. As a result of their efforts to accommodate these challenges, they are highly adaptogenic, resistant to bacterial attacks, compact and efficient, producing massive concentrations of potent bioactive molecules that have a wide range of benefits.

The studies are mounting up to support this fact. Berries are one of the best foods to eat for good health. Although they produce a range of beneficial compounds, at the core of their effects are the flavonoids and anthocyanins. Science tells us that anything that reduces inflammation in the body is highly protective against many forms of disease and aging. As our population continues to get older, this becomes even more important.

Berries are rich in micronutrients, especially essential amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E, linoleic acid, selenium, germanium, and more beta carotene than carrots. The ORAC scale that measures antioxidant levels in food has berries at most of the top positions on the list, as did a study from Tufts University.

Berries are highly beneficial to cognitive functions, using their protective effects to protect brain tissue, as well as cardiovascular function, metabolic syndrome (obesity and hypertension), and even cancer. Some research suggests berries can have as much positive impact on neuro-degenerative diseases as prescription drugs, and show amazing benefits for extending life.

One study published in the Annals of Neurology showed that diets high in consumption of blueberries and strawberries provided significant protection against cognitive decline in older women. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School stated that:

"greater intake of the anthocyanidin class of flavonoids was associated with significantly reduced age-related declines in neuronal signaling and cognitive behavior... Berry-derived anthocyanidins are uniquely and specifically capable of both crossing the blood–brain barrier and localizing in brain regions involved in learning and memory (eg, the hippocampus). In multiple studies of rats, blueberry or strawberry supplementation, and supplementation at older ages reversed neuronal and cognitive decline. We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women."

Every species of berry provides remarkable health benefits.

I am just going to cherry pick a few of the rewards to health from consuming berries regularly, but there are many, many more.

Blueberries have a protective effect on blood cells, reducing risk of heart disease, varicose veins, glaucoma, cataracts, and ulcers. Recent studies have shown that blueberries delay the aging process in a variety of ways, including repairing DNA damage and favorably modulating genes associated with aging. One lab study reported that compounds in blueberries could extend life by up to 28% (C. elegans worms), and another done in conjunction with calorie restriction showed that the benefits of CR were higher in human subjects that consumed blueberries than those who did not.

It seems to be the polyphenols in blueberries that modulate genes, (like the Methuselah gene, which has increased the life span of fruit flies by more than 30%), promoting production of enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and catalase that provide cells with the ability to capture and detoxify free radicals.

Acai berries have recently become all the rage for their ability to slow aging process and prevent cellular oxidative damage. Similar in appearance to blueberries, they are even more potent and protective. The aronia berry is another closely related species with equally impressive health effects, and recently the maqui berry has found prominence thanks to some remarkable ORAC levels.

Strawberries are also high in phenols, these antioxidant phytonutrients that protect against disease, especially in the brain and in the eyesA study at Cornell University found that strawberries stopped the proliferation of HepG(2) liver cancer cells. Another discovered that isothiocyanate in strawberries inhibited esophageal cancer.

A study from the Chinese Journal of Oncology found that patients with cancer responded better to treatment when goji berries were added to their daily diet.

One of my personal favorites,, blackberries score extremely high on the ORAC scale and offer massive antioxidant protection, as well as being high in pectin, the soluble fiber that studies link to lowered levels of cholesterol. The darker the color, the more concentrated the phytonutrients, so it is no surprise that blackberries show a broad range of highly beneficial effects in studies, especially in the area of cancer protection. Research done at Ohio State University showed blackberries interfered with tumor formation in the mouth and in the colon.

The entire range of berry species produce powerhouse fruit that may help us live longer and healthier. I have just summarized from a few studies, but there are many more that confirm the amazing benefits of berries. From the years of my own research into nutrition, berries have become a staple of my diet -- one of maybe 10 foods I consume absolutely religiously.

Berries get more potent when heated.

Best of all, research has found certain compounds actually increase in potency when cooked or dried. Just as broccoli and cabbage increase five-fold in antioxidant value when heated, so too does the berry when cooked or dried. This means that supplementation with these fruits can lead to a host of health benefits, especially as some of them are difficult to procure for daily consumption. When we developed our ResveraYouth resveratrol and super berry fruits anti-aging supplement, our own tests showed increased efficacy in all the fruits after slow drying and powdering. They become even more powerful and maintain key bio-availability!

Of all our supplements, ResveraYouth may be the most beneficial to your health. Berries can offer not just enhanced resistance to stress and disease, but also slowed aging, reduced DNA damage, increased cardiovascular and blood health, better brain function, and many more remarkable health effects. If you want to feed your body the nutrition it needs to stay young and vital, embrace the amazing berry.

Related Posts: 
Benefits of the Adaptogen Rhodiola as a Vitality Tonic
The Importance of Being Alkaline - Know Your pH ! 
For the Love of Food, What We Eat Can Heal

Protect Your Health | Prevent Disease with Xanthophylls

References:

Andres-Lacueva, Cristina Shukitt-Hale, Barbara, Galli Rachel, Jauregui, Olga, Lamuela-Raventos, Rosa, Joseph, James A. Anthocyanins in aged blueberry-fed rats are found centrally and may enhance memory. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2005 April. vol. 8 issue 2.
Brekhman, I.I. and Dardymov, I.V., 1969. New substances of plant origin which increase nonspecific resistance. Annual Review of Pharmacology, 9.
Bell DR, Gochenaur K. Direct vasoactive and vasoprotective properties of anthocyanin-rich extracts. J Appl Physiol. 2006 Apr;100(4):1164-70. Dec 8.
Chrousos, George P., 1998, Stressors, stress, and neuroendocrine integration of the adaptive response. In: Peter Csermely (Ed.), Stress of Life: From Molecules to Man. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.The New York Academy of Sciences
Fursova AZh, Gesarevich OG, Gonchar AM, Trofimova NA, Kolosova NG. Dietary supplementation with bilberry extract prevents macular degeneration and cataracts in senesce-accelerated OXYS rats. Adv Gerontol. 2005;16:76-9. Russian.
Meyers KJ, Watkins CB, Pritts MP, Liu RH. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of strawberries. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Nov 5;51(23):6887-92.
Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, Bohn SK, Holte K, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. Content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul; 84.


 

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


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