Eating berries may be good for mental health, shows a test conducted on mice, though scientists say it is too early to apply the findings to humans.
Barbara Shukitt-Hale and colleagues at Tufts University studied 60 young male rats, splitting them into three groups, reported the online edition of the health magazine WebMD.
One group of rats got plain chow with no berries. A second group got the same chow laced with strawberry extract. The third group got chow laced with blueberry extract.
After two months of such a diet, the researchers measured the rats' brain levels of dopamine, a chemical that has many functions in the brain. A decrease in dopamine can cause a drop in memory, attention and problem solving skills.
The researchers found improvement in the health of the brain of the rats that had eaten berries.
Shukitt-Hale's team, however, does not tout any particular type of berry as having the best brain benefits. "Berries vary in their nutrient mixes and may have different brain effects, but that's not certain yet," said the researcher.
Diets rich in berries may help the aging brain stay sharp, the researchers write in the online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
The scientists are not making any promises for people just yet. "It's unknown if these findings apply to human brains," said Shukitt-Hale.