MONTEREY, Calif. — National berry experts in a range of fields shared their insights during the first public session of the Berry Health Benefits Symposium.

The June 22 event was part of the first session of the two-day symposium and featured six researchers who gave an overview of the berry and health research being presented — everything from preventing skin cancer through topical treatments derived from black raspberries to berry consumption improving brain function as people age.

Berries to eat, berries to improve health during fruit-focused conference
                                                Dawn Withers

Mary Pagan, right, executive chef and owner of the Culinary Center of Monterey, prepares blackberry dijon dressing during the Berry Health Benefits Symposium's public session.

Gary Stoner, a researcher with Ohio State University, said there isn’t strong epidemiological data showing berries protect against cancer, but there is research that shows they may help augment cancer treatments, especially with skin cancer.

Jim Joseph, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, said berries may help slow effects of aging on the brain.

Though research hasn’t reached full clinical trails, some of the center’s work showed that eating a berry-rich diet can improve memory in the elderly.

The research shows the fruit “can prevent or reserve some of these changes” in memory, Joseph said.

The 70 attendees of the public session saw a cooking demonstration with Mary Pagan, executive chef and owner of the Calif.-based Culinary Center of Monterey, who created three dishes using different types of berries.

Janie Hibler, author of “The Berry Bible,” offered cooking advice.

“This is very practical information,” said Diana Fort, director of raw ingredient sourcing with Nu Skin, Provo, Utah. “It’s great because this is about real uses.”

Most major berry organizations and companies sponsored the event, which featured 23 speakers.

Organizers estimated more than 200 people attended the conference.