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Health News Archive 374 - Radiation
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Berry Extracts Fight Cell-Damaging Effects of Radiation

Radiation, such as X-rays, can affect cells of the body, causing gene mutations that can be passed on to future generations. In addition to permanent genetic defects, ionizing radiation can cause cancer, precancerous lesions, benign tumors, cataracts, skin changes, and congenital defects.  Everyday exposure to ionizing radiation is found in a wide range of occupational settings, including health care facilities, research institutions and manufacturing settings.

A new study has found that increasing your intake of berry extracts helps fight the cell-damaging effects of radiation.

Researchers took 60 two-month old rats and fed them a diet containing either 2% blueberry or 2% strawberry extract, or a control diet for two months. After two months, half the rats in the extract group and half in the control group were exposed to radiation at levels known to cause significant alterations in brain neurochemistry and behavior and then kept on their diets for eight weeks.

The rats then completed the Morris Water Maze Test (MWM), a commonly used learning and memory test that require rats to find the location of a hidden platform just below the surface of a circular pool of water. They completed the maze six times per day up to five weeks after radiation exposure.

Researchers found that the radiation impaired performance in the MWM and decreased release of dopamine, a brain chemical, while these deficits were protected by the antioxidant diets. They found that the different antioxidant diets affected different parts of the brain. While the strawberry diet offered better protection for the part of the brain related to memory (the hippocampus), the blueberry diet protected the part of the brain related to learning (the striatum).

The researchers concluded “blueberry and strawberry diets, high in antioxidants, provide protection against harmful radiation effects” and “the antioxidant diets and the different polyphenols in these fruits might be acting in different brain regions to produce their beneficial effects.”

Source: Shukitt-Hale. Beneficial effects of fruit extracts on neuronal function and behavior in a rodent model of accelerated aging. Neurobiol Aging 2006.

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