Blueberries boost memory retention and coordination.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Antioxidants in blueberries promote memory and coordination by enhancing existing brain cell connections and improving neurocellular communication.
WHAT WE KNOW
The consumption of diets rich in antioxidants such as those found in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing age-related diseases that decrease the structure and function of neurons in the brain. Research suggests that the antioxidants found in berry fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, may help lesson damage caused by free radicals to the area in the brain that sends messages to the body, thus maintaining normal communication of the neurons in your brain.
More specifically, antioxidants in berries may protect against, and even reverse, some age-related memory loss by preventing free-radical damage and improving blood flow. They are also thought to exert positive effects on learning and memory by enhancing existing brain cell connections, improving cellular communications and stimulating the brain to produce more neurons and maintain the structure and function of already existing neurons.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Researchers at Tufts University and elsewhere have been investigating the role of berries in protecting the brain. While much of the research has been done with rats, it suggests that compared to control rats on a standard diet, aging rats perform better in memory tests, coordination, and balance when fed blueberries. While older rats still did not perform as well as younger rats, if similar improvements are possible in humans, these gains could improve quality of life as we age.¹
A study was recently reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry about the effects of 12 weeks of daily consumption of wild blueberry juice in a sample of older human adults with early memory changes. In the study, one group of volunteers drank the equivalent of 2-2 l/2 cups of a commercially-available blueberry juice every day while a control group drank a beverage without blueberry juice. Scientists reported that the blueberry juice group showed significant improvement on learning and memory tests.² More comprehensive human trials are needed to study the preventative potential of berries.
Eat your blueberries and a variety of fruits and vegetables! While research about blueberries and their neurological effects is ongoing, just remember the more fruits and vegetables you eat (including nutritious blueberries) the better! Blueberries along with all fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and other beneficial health-promoting compounds. While the effects of aging on the body are hard to prevent, fruits and vegetables can be some of your best offense to leading a long and healthy life!
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¹ Joseph, James, Daniel Nadeau, Anne Underwood. “The Color Code A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health.” Hyperion, NY, 2002.
² Krikorian, Robert, Marcelle D. Shidler, Tiffany A. Nash, Wilhelmina Kalt, Melinda R. Vinqvist-Tymchuk, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, James A. Joseph. “Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2010: 58(7): 3996-4000.