The Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease that is nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. The reason? The Kuna drink plenty of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
In a landmark study published in 1999, researchers at Tufts University's Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging fed rats blueberry extract for a period of time that in 'rat lives' is equivalent to 10 human years. These rats outperformed rats fed regular chow on tests of balance and coordination when they reached old age. Compounds in blueberries (and other berries) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function.