A new study from the University of Cincinnati found that daily consumption of blueberries in middle age can reduce a person’s risk of cognitive decline in later years. A small study in humans identified several physiological and cognitive improvements after 12 weeks of daily blueberry supplements.

The health benefits of blueberries are well known. From wound healing properties to memory enhancement, blueberries are incredibly nutrient-rich little packets.

Robert Krikorian has been studying the neurological effects of blueberries for several years. His previous work found several cognitive benefits for older subjects when adding blueberries to their diet, but this new study aims to examine whether fruits can be useful preventatives when consumed regularly in middle age.

“We observed cognitive benefits of blueberries in previous studies with older people and thought they might be effective in younger people with insulin resistance,” Krikoryan said. “Alzheimer’s disease, like all chronic diseases of aging, develops over a period of many years, starting in middle age.

To test the effects of blueberry supplements in middle-aged people, the researchers included 33 adults between the ages of 50 and 65. All participants were at least overweight (with a body mass index of 25 or more) and reported subjective cognitive complaints, suggesting the earliest stages of age-related cognitive decline.

Participants were blindly given a 12-week supply of either lyophilized whole blueberry powder or placebo powder. Cranberry powder is equivalent to about half a cup of blueberries a day. A number of cognitive tests were completed at the beginning and end of the study and several metabolic biomarkers were monitored.

According to Krikoryan, the most significant cognitive improvements observed after 12 weeks of taking blueberries were in tests related to executive functions. Subjects consuming blueberry powder also showed improvements in fasting insulin levels and increased mitochondrial secretion, a cellular process associated with healthy aging.

Of course, as with all studies like this, there are many caveats. The cohort was small and the duration of the intervention was short. So it is difficult to immediately declare blueberries as a powerful food for the prevention of dementia.

Krikorian is aware of these limitations and calls for more research to confirm these findings. However, he also noted that adding blueberries to a balanced diet is likely to do no harm as part of a broader strategy for healthy aging.

“The sample size is an obvious limitation of the study, so it will be important to reproduce these findings, especially by other researchers,” Krikorian said. “In the meantime, it may be a good idea to eat blueberries regularly.”

The new study is published in the journal Nutrients.

Source: University of Cincinnati


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