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The Power of Blue

The Power of BlueCutting edge research at Tufts uncovers the anti-aging powers of blueberries and other dark colored fruits and vegetables, signaling the growing importance of a colorful diet.

Boston [03.11.02] While no fountain of youth has been discovered to stop the aging process, there are some easy ways to slow its effects. According to nutrition research underway at Tufts, a colorful diet -- packed with many dark colored foods -- may be an important key to healthy aging.

"Many of the ailments that we've come to fear -- cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis among others -- are not inevitable at all," Tufts' James Joseph wrote in his new book "The Color Code," reported the Ottawa Citizen. "By fortifying our diets with colorful fruits and vegetables, we may prevent many of these diseases from striking in the first place."

A leader in his field, Joseph is often credited with some of the most widespread research on the link between a fruit or vegetable's color and it's anti-aging properties.

"Incorporating colorful fruits and vegetables into a daily eating plan may be the best defensive strategy for fending off many diseases of aging," Joseph said. "My experience in the area of aging research and more specifically my most recent work with blueberries has made me a believer in the powerful health potential of pigmented food."

In 1999, the associate professor at Tufts' Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy first reported that blueberries can help slow memory loss and improve coordination, thanks to the antioxidants that give them their dark blue color.

"Motor behavior is one of the first things to decline as you age, " said Joseph, the principal investigator of the study and chief of the Neuroscience Laboratory at Tufts University's Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. "The improvements we saw in coordination and balance are really significant."

The Tufts research led to record blueberry sales and increased attention to the link between a food's color and its nutritional power.

"Joseph's findings have resulted in a new movement in healthful eating that could be called the rainbow diet," reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Simply put, you need to consume two or more servings each of red, orange/yellow, green and blue/purple fruits and vegetables a day."

In "The Color Code," Joseph and his colleagues, Dr. Daniel Nadeau, assistant professor at Tufts' School of Medicine, and Anne Underwood, a reporter for Newsweek, detailed some strategies for choosing food with the most anti-aging potential.

"As a rule, the brighter and deeper the color of the food, the greater its disease-fighting properties," reported the Post-Gazette. "Ripe fruits and vegetables are best, and edible skins and peels should be consumed for maximum benefit. Also, try to eat a wide variety since different fruits and vegetables offer different health benefits."

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