A daily dose of blueberries could be the perfect way to ease memory lapses and brain slips that typically accompany old age.
In a study, older adults who drank a couple of cups of blueberry juice a day improved their scores on a learning and memory task by 20 percent.
Studies in animals have linked blueberries with brain function, but this is one of the first such studies in people. The results have indicated that blueberries might just live up to their reputation as "superfoods."
Among other health benefits, adding the tasty little, blue marbles to your diet could help slow the march of memory decline and possibly even prevent memories from slipping in the first place.
"We're getting the first signal in humans that this might work. There's so much research now suggesting that fruits and vegetables are beneficial. I don't have any qualms about recommending that people eat blueberries," Discovery News quoted Robert Krikorian, a neuropsychologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, as saying.
In animal studies, older individuals that consume blueberry extract improve their performance on memory tasks, sometimes to the point of being just as sharp as their younger counterparts.
Scientists have attributed blueberries’ impressive brain-boosting effects on a type of antioxidant called anthocyanins. These molecules belong to a larger group called polyphenols, which come in thousands of varieties.
Polyphenols appear in virtually all fruits and vegetables, and have been shown to reduce the risk of cancers and heart disease, among other benefits. In animals that have consumed lots of blueberries, scientists have spotted anthocyanins in the brain structures that are known to be involved in memory. That’s where molecules appear to work their magic by helping neurons communicate with each other, facilitating memory processing.
Anthocyanins also make brain cells more resilient in the face of stress. The molecules might even act as a sort of mild toxin that prods the body to grow stronger.
Krikorian wanted to know whether any of it applied to people, and thus recruited nine adults who were, on average, in their mid-70s. All participants had experienced some mild memory decline.
In the beginning, each participant took a series of learning and memory tests and for the next 12 weeks, they drank three glasses of blueberry juice a day, for a total of between two and two and a half cups.
During the last week of the study, participants took the memory tests again. Researchers noted a 20 percent improvement in the tests after taking blueberry juice everyday.