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Blueberries For Brain Health: First Look

January 22, 2010
Scientists are reporting the first evidence from human research that blueberries—one of the richest sources of healthful antioxidants and other so-called phytochemicals—improve memory. They say the small study establishes a basis for future comprehensive human clinical trials to determine whether blueberries really deserve their growing reputation as a memory enhancer. Blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds, most prominently anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, anthocyanins have been associated with increased neuron signaling in brain centers, aiding memory function as well as improved glucose disposal, benefits that would be expected to ease brain cell degeneration. In a report on the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Robert Krikorian and colleagues point out that previous studies in laboratory animals suggest that eating blueberries may help boost memory in the aged, but until now there had been little scientific work aimed at testing the effect of blueberry supplementation on people. This study investigated the effects of daily consumption of wild blueberry juice in a sample of nine older adults with early memory changes. At 12 weeks, improvements included better word list recall, reduced depressive symptoms and lower glucose levels. The study also compared those drinking the blueberry juice to a group who drank a non-blueberry placebo, again with positive findings. The results of this preliminary study suggest that moderate-term blueberry supplementation can have cognitive benefits. "These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration," said the report’s authors. The research involved scientists from the University of Cincinnati, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Canadian department of agriculture.