How Good are Berries for Aging?

As the old adage goes, we are what we eat. And because what we consume affects our overall health, people are always trying to rank certain foods as the best. In fact, you’ve probably seen multiple “anti-aging” food lists telling you to eat this and that to optimize your health. But there’s an important difference between internet lists and bona fide scientific literature, and a recent scientific review describes what scientists actually know about the potential benefits of red raspberries. So just how much evidence is there actually—are those $5.00 raspberries at the grocery store really worth it?

Breaking Down the Berry
This berry-licious research on red raspberries comes out of the University of California, Davis, whose Department of Nutrition is particularly on par. Researchers reviewed current evidence on the potential health benefits of red raspberry consumption. Essentially, they note that red raspberries possess anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and metabolic stabilizing activity (all good things). There is evidence that these properties of raspberries may help to lower blood pressures, decrease atherosclerosis (artery plaques), reduce symptoms of diabetes and even improve function after brain injury. The support for these findings stems from both in vitro (in the lab) and in vivo (in animals/humans) studies. In vitro findings can provide insight into the complicated workings of plant bioactivity. At the same time, though, the compounds used in these experiments often exceed realistic physiological concentrations, so their results should be taken with a grain of salt. In vivo studies are more reliable, but even so, many of the studies compiled for this analysis were performed in rats (not humans), making it difficult to confidently extrapolate their results to people. In fact, if you read between the lines in the actual published paper, the authors note that NO studies performed in humans showed any benefit of raspberry consumption.

So, Skip the Berries?
Does this mean raspberries are no good? Certainly not. Fruit consumption of any kind is associated with longer lifespan and cardiovascular health. Likewise, berries in general are known to contain many necessary micronutrients (vitamins A, C, E and calcium) and there are some reports showing that berry consumption could prevent cancer. So, keep eating your berries.

Basically, this is just a great example of misinformation mixed with real information. We see terms like “research report” and “scientific study” and think this must be the “end-all-be-all” of information. However, to truly understand fact vs. fiction regarding which foods CAN help us age more gracefully, some deeper investigation is definitely necessary.

Fortunately, our Healthy Aging Project team is working on just this—a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand, myth-busting compilation of healthy aging foods. Stay tuned for more info on these aging antidotes.

(Feature photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Samantha Lunsky

Samantha Lunsky is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.