New research just gave parents everywhere another reason to add blueberries to the grocery list. Previous studies have demonstrated that—thanks to its strong antioxidants—the vitamin-C rich fruit can lower a person's risk of heart disease and cancer. Now, blueberries are also shown to stave off the effects of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's, a type of dementia that slowly worsens and affects memory, thinking and behavior, can interfere with daily tasks and can eventually stop a person's breathing. According to the Alzheimer's Association, currently 5.3 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's disease, but that number is projected to rise to more than 7 million by 2025 and triple by 2050.
So, yes, it's a serious issue. And that's why the research, conducted by University of Cincinnati scientists and led by Dr. Robert Krikorian, can be so important. The group presented their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society on Sunday and wanted to see if adding blueberries to adults' diets can prevent neurocognitive decline.
Earlier clinical trials were promising and linked blueberries to higher cognitive performance. So the researchers conducted two new studies. The first had a group of 47 adults, who were at least 68 years old and showed signs of mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor for Alzheimer's). After performing tests and brain scans, the participants were split into two groups—one group ate a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks while the other ate freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to a cup of berries).
"The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts," said Krikorian. The brain scans also showed increase cognitive activity.
In the second study, results were a bit more fuzzy. This time, the Krikorian group included 94 participants between 62 and 80 years old who claim to have some memory problems. Participants were split into four groups, each receiving either a placebo, blueberry powder, fish oil, or fish oil and blueberry powder.
"The results were not as robust as with the first study," Krikorian said. "Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or fish oil separately, but there was little improvement with memory." The brain scans were also not as striking. The researchers think it might be because the second study's participants had less severe issues.
They plan on studying 50- to 65-year-olds who are at risk of developing Alzheimer's next. While they're at it, can someone also see if blueberries help "mom brain," please?!
Don't like eating just blueberries? Try one of our favorite blueberry-centric recipes!