Several species of berries, such as blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium
) and lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea
L.), have attracted much scientific attention in recent years, especially due to their reported antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Berries, as with other types of plants, have developed metabolic mechanisms to survive various environmental stresses, some of which involve reactive oxygen species. In addition, the fruits and leaves of berries have high amounts of polyphenols, such as flavonoids, which act as potent antioxidants. These compounds could potentially be beneficial for brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders. There are now several studies documenting the beneficial effects of various berries in cell models of neurotoxicity as well as in vivo models of neurodegenerative disease. In the current review, we discuss the metabolic strategies that plants and animals have developed in order to combat reactive oxygen species. We then discuss issues of bioavailability of various compounds in mammals and provide a synopsis of studies demonstrating the neuroprotective ability of berries and polyphenols. We also summarize findings from our own research group. For example, we have detected various polyphenols in samples of blueberries and lingonberries and have found that the leaves have a much higher antioxidant capacity than the fruits. Extracts from these species have also demonstrated neuroprotective effects in cellular models of toxicity and inflammation, which are being further pursued in animal models.
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