A new study released in the European Journal of Nutrition indicates that consuming a cup of blueberries daily for as little as ninety days could boost cognition in older adults. As if one needs a reason to eat blueberries!
Memory and cognitive decline are symptoms that all people experience to a greater or lesser extent as they age. Normal aging involves some memory impairment, impaired ability to pick up new skills, and slowed cognition.
Blueberries are small, blue berries. They are also likely the fruit with the most antioxidant capacity commonly found in our diets. Antioxidants are compounds that spare our cells the damage that oxidative stress can cause. This antioxidant action is likely the driving force behind the memory boosting and protective effects of blueberries. In animal studies, the antioxidants in blueberries appear to disproportionately congregate in the brain.
And it is looking like that benefit holds true in humans, too.
This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial which means that it has the capacity to make causal claims.
Thirteen men and 24 women between the ages of 60 and 75 years were randomized into two groups. One group was given 24g of freeze dried blueberries (the equivalent of about a cup of fresh berries) per day and the other group was given a blueberry placebo. The two groups ate their respective berries or faux berries for 90 days.
Before the 90 days, the participants completed a battery of balance, gait, and cognitive tests. Then they completed the same tests at 45 days and 90 days.
The group eating blueberries scored significantly better than the control (placebo) group on the cognitive tests. No improvement in gait or balance was observed in either group.
The Bottom Line
This is strong evidence that something as simple as eating a cup of fresh (or 24g of freeze dried) blueberries per day could help stave off the cognitive decline associated with aging. At least, a little.
It is encouraging because this actually reinforces an 2010 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in which 9 older adults with memory change symptoms were given blueberry juice for 12 weeks. They showed improvement in memory as well!
Photo credit: Jennifer C.