Posted on Tue, 27 Mar 18
Despite the popular belief that blueberries are a super food for the brain, few clinical studies have examined effects on cognition in older age. A new study showing that just 1-cup daily improves cognition is welcome news.
Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients called polyphenols and have been found to slow cognitive decline and enhance memory, but mostly in rats. Because animal research may not translate to humans, studies on blueberries are needed to verify potential brain benefits.
Almost a decade ago, the first study testing blueberries in older adults with mild cognitive decline found that the daily consumption of blueberry juice for just 12 weeks resulted in significant improvement in memory and cognitive function . But the amount used was equivalent to eating around 600-850 grams (about 4 to 5.5 cups) of berries a day, so not very practical.
Fortunately, a new study tested a more realistic amount, just 1-cup daily. In the study, men and women aged 60 to 75 years consumed either freeze-dried blueberry (24 g/day, equivalent to 1 cup of fresh blueberries) or a blueberry placebo for 90 days and were tested for cognitive function at baseline and after the blueberry “treatment.”
After the three months, those consuming blueberries, but not placebo, had measurable improvements in some aspects of executive function, which were particularly evident in the most challenging cognitive tests.
“Dietary interventions with polyphenol-rich foods, such as blueberries, present a potentially fruitful strategy for combating some of the deleterious effects of age-related neurodegeneration,” concluded the study investigators. Pun intended.
Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000.
Miller MG, Hamilton DA, Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B. Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2018 Apr;57(3):1169-1180.