Blueberries in your breakfast? That could be a good thing.
Two new studies from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center found blueberries could improve thinking skills and memory for people who had mild cognition problems. Difficulties in cognition and memory can be early signs of Alzheimer's disease.
Earlier research indicated there may be links between blueberry consumption and a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The health benefits are thought to be connected to anthocyanins, the substance that gives the berries their deep blue color.
“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,” lead author Robert Krikorian, PhD, said in a press release.
Alzheimer’s is on the rise in older Americans and has become more of a concern as the population ages, according to the study authors. The condition can lead to memory loss and problems with judgment. People with severe Alzheimer's disease require constant supervision and care.
In the first study, Dr. Krikorian and colleagues divided 47 patients into two groups. All were 68 or older and had mild cognitive impairment. The first group received dried blueberry powder and the second received a placebo (fake) powder.
In the first group, patients had improved memory and brain function compared to the placebo group. Those who took blueberry powder also showed increased brain activity on imaging scans.
For the second study, Dr. Krikorian and team divided a group of 94 patients into four smaller groups. The patients, aged 62 to 80, didn't show obvious signs of cognitive problems but reported their memories were declining. The groups took blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil plus blueberry powder or a placebo.
“The results were not as robust as with the first study,” Dr. Krikorian said in the press release. “Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or fish oil separately, but there was little improvement with memory.”
The study was presented at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on March 13.
The study was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council, the National Institute on Aging and Wild Blueberries of North America.
Information on conflict of interest was not available.