The blueberry, already known to be a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be insurance for your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. New research presented by scientists Sunday bolsters the idea that this fruit, loaded with healthful antioxidants, could help prevent the devastating effects of this common form of dementia.
“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team.
He said that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.
One study involved 47 adults aged 68 and older, who had mild cognitive impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers gave them either freeze-dried blueberry powder, which is equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks.
“There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo,” Krikorian says. “The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.” The team also conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging, which showed increased brain activity in those who ingested the blueberry powder.
The second study included 94 people aged 62 to 80 who had less severe issues. The results were not as robust as with the first study and Krikorian believes the two studies indicate that blueberries may be more effective in treating patients with cognitive impairments, but may not show equal measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems.
The researchers, whose funding came from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the National Institute on Aging and Wild Blueberries of North America, presented their work at the 251st annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, on March 13.
Currently 5.3 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
The team plans to conduct a blueberry study with a younger group of people, aged 50 to 65. The group would include people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, such as those who are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. This work could help the researchers determine if blueberries could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
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