Food and Behaviour Research

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Blueberries aid healthy ageing, studies suggest

Oliver Morrison


A collection of new studies provides insight into how consumption of blueberries can contribute to healthy ageing.

Consuming a cup of blueberries a day can improve blood vessel function and decrease systolic blood pressure, according to a collection of new studies that add further evidence on the health benefits of the fruit.

As a cause, the authors of the study, which appeared in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, cited anthocyanins, which are phytochemicals that give blueberries their dark colour.

Other studies documented the cognitive benefits of eating blueberries. One tied the fruit's high polyphenol count to improved performance on memory tests by a group of older adults. Likewise, another journal article provides a review of several clinical studies focusing on the benefits of blueberry supplementation -- with a focus on specific memory effects in children as well as older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

The journal collection also includes a rodent study, which presents data on the improved memory performance of blueberry-supplemented aged rats compared to rats on a control diet.

In this study, 60 rats undertook a radial arm water maze (RAWM) test and were divided into good, average, and poor performers based on navigation errors. Half of the rats in each performance group were then fed a control or a 2% blueberry supplement diet for eight weeks before retesting. Latency, or delays, in the radial arm water maze was significantly reduced in the poor performers fed on blueberries and preserved in the blueberry-fed good performers.

Meanwhile, the rats on the control diet who were good performers in the first test committed more errors in the second test, whereas the blueberry-fed good performers showed no change. “Consumption of blueberries may reverse some age-related deficits in cognition, as well as preserve function among those with intact cognitive ability,” the study concluded.

The articles presented in this special collection emerged from a symposium titled "Blue versus Gray: Potential Health Benefits of Blueberries for Successful Aging," held at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in July 2017.

"Since the 1990s, research on the health benefits of blueberries has grown exponentially," wrote guest editor Donald K. Ingram, PhD, FGSA, in an opening editorial. "Studies have documented that this fruit ranks highest in antioxidant activity compared to many other popular fruits. Moreover, other mechanisms for the health benefits of blueberries, such as their anti-inflammatory properties, have been identified.

This collection of articles bolsters the research literature supporting the claims that blueberry consumption can promote successful aging.”