Patricia, I will be the first to agree that much of today's research studies are funded by companies seeking to promote their products. In fact, this has become a "hot button" for health professionals nowadays.
However, studies on berries and other foods rich in phytochemicals have been ongoing, by a number of quite varied research groups, for quite a few years now, and I am fairly careful about seeking those not supported by fruit producers, berry councils, etc. but by independent researchers. I myself think there is substance to this work, and I do encourage use of such foods -- what prevents a disease may, perhaps, also slow its progression. And, yes, they sure do cost an arm and a leg! We are fortunate to live near farms that sell their own, and I buy and freeze a year's supply when in season.
Here are a couple of past studies on fruits of interest:
Public release date: 13-Feb-2011
Contact: Rachel Seroka
American Academy of Neurology
Eating berries may lower risk of Parkinson's
ST. PAUL, Minn. –New research shows men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease, while men may also further lower their risk by regularly eating apples, oranges and other sources rich in dietary components called flavonoids. The study was released today and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011.
Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits and are also known collectively as vitamin P and citrin. They can also be found in berry fruits, chocolate, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit.
The study involved 49,281 men and 80,336 women. Researchers gave participants questionnaires and used a database to calculate intake amount of flavonoids. They then analyzed the association between flavonoid intakes and risk of developing Parkinson's disease. They also analyzed consumption of five major sources of foods rich in flavonoids: tea, berries, apples, red wine and oranges or orange juice. The participants were followed for 20 to 22 years.
During that time, 805 people developed Parkinson's disease. In men, the top 20 percent who consumed the most flavonoids were about 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than the bottom 20 percent of male participants who consumed the least amount of flavonoids. In women, there was no relationship between overall flavonoid consumption and developing Parkinson's disease. However, when sub-classes of flavonoids were examined, regular consumption of anthocyanins, which are mainly obtained from berries, were found to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease in both men and women.
"This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson's disease," said study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease."
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Public release date: 4-Apr-2012
Contact: UEA Press Office
University of East Anglia
Eating flavonoids protects men against Parkinson's disease
Men who eat flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, tea, apples and red
wine significantly reduce their risk of developing Parkinson's disease,
according to new research by Harvard University and the University of
East Anglia (UEA).
Published today in the journal Neurology ®, the findings add to the
growing body of evidence that regular consumption of some flavonoids can
have a marked effect on human health. Recent studies have shown that
these compounds can offer protection against a wide range of diseases
including heart disease, hypertension, some cancers and dementia.
This latest study is the first study in humans to show that flavonoids
can protect neurons against diseases of the brain such as Parkinson's.
Around 130,000 men and women took part in the research. More than 800
had developed Parkinson's disease within 20 years of follow-up. After a
detailed analysis of their diets and adjusting for age and lifestyle,
male participants who ate the most flavonoids were shown to be 40 per
cent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate the least. No
similar link was found for total flavonoid intake in women.
The research was led by Dr Xiang Gao of Harvard School of Public Health
in collaboration with Prof Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition,
Norwich Medical School at UEA.
"These exciting findings provide further confirmation that regular
consumption of flavonoids can have potential health benefits," said Prof
"This is the first study in humans to look at the associations between
the range of flavonoids in the diet and the risk of developing
Parkinson's disease and our findings suggest that a sub-class of
flavonoids called anthocyanins may have neuroprotective effects."
Prof Gao said: "Interestingly, anthocyanins and berry fruits, which are
rich in anthocyanins, seem to be associated with a lower risk of
Parkinson's disease in pooled analyses. Participants who consumed one or
more portions of berry fruits each week were around 25 per cent less
likely to develop Parkinson's disease, relative to those who did not eat
berry fruits. Given the other potential health effects of berry fruits,
such as lowering risk of hypertension as reported in our previous
studies, it is good to regularly add these fruits to your diet."
Flavonoids are a group of naturally occurring, bioactive compunds found
in many plant-based foods and drinks. In this study the main protective
effect was from higher intake of anthocyanins, which are present in
berries and other fruits and vegetables including aubergines,
blackcurrants and blackberries. Those who consumed the most anthocyanins
had a 24 per cent reduction in risk of developing Parkinson's disease
and strawberries and blueberries were the top two sources in the US diet.
The findings must now be confirmed by other large epidemiological
studies and clinical trials.
Parkinson's disease is a progresssive neurological condition affecting
one in 500 people, which equates to 127,000 people in the UK. There are
few effective drug therapies available.
Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson's UK said: "This
study raises lots of interesting questions about how diet may influence
our risk of Parkinson's and we welcome any new research that could
potentially lead to prevention.
"While these new results look interesting there are still a lot of
questions to answer and much more research to do before we really know
how important diet might be for people with Parkinson's."
'Habitual intake of dietary flavonoids and risk of Parkinson's disease'
by X Gao (Harvard), A Cassidy (UEA), M Schwarzschild (Massachusetts
General Hospital), E Rimm (Harvard) and A Ascherio (Harvard) is
published on April 4 by Neurology ® – the medical journal of the
American Academy of Neurology.