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Berries Seen Reducing Brain Damage from Strokes

Study supports stroke-protective power of colorful plant foods

by Craig Weatherby

Need an incentive to eat berries and spinach?  Confirming the results of prior animal studies, researchers have found that rats fed diets enriched with antioxidant-rich blueberries, spinach or spirulina (a supplemental algae) experienced less brain cell loss and improved recovery of movement following a stroke.

As the scientists said, “We found that animals which received blueberry, spinach, or spirulina enriched diets had a significant reduction in the volume of infarction [blockage of blood circulation] in the cerebral cortex and an increase in post-stroke locomotor activity. In conclusion, our data suggest that chronic treatment with blueberry, spinach, or spirulina reduces ischemia/reperfusion-induced apoptosis [disintegration of cells] and cerebral infarction.”

In plain English, lead researcher Paul Bickford, Ph.D. described the results this way: "The size of the stroke was 50 to 75 per cent less in rats treated with diets supplemented with blueberries, spinach or spirulina before the stroke."

The potent polyphenol antioxidants in these foods—which also serve as pigments that lend fruits and vegetables their bright colors—neutralize the free radicals whose damage to brain cells is among the key effects triggered by a cerebral stroke.

Your mother was right… eat your fruit and vegetables! And choose colorful foods high in antioxidants, a group that includes blueberries (ranked number one), raspberries, and strawberries.


  • Wang Y, Chang CF, Chou J, Chen HL, Deng X, Harvey BK, Cadet JL, Bickford PC. Dietary supplementation with blueberries, spinach, or spirulina reduces ischemic brain damage. Exp Neurol. 2005 May;193(1):75-84.
  • Sweeney MI, Kalt W, MacKinnon SL, Ashby J, Gottschall-Pass KT. Feeding rats diets enriched in lowbush blueberries for six weeks decreases ischemia-induced brain damage. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Dec;5(6):427-31.
  • Bickford PC, Gould T, Briederick L, Chadman K, Pollock A, Young D, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph J. Antioxidant-rich diets improve cerebellar physiology and motor learning in aged rats. Brain Res. 2000 Jun 2;866(1-2):211-7.