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Eating blueberries each day can improve memory and attention, and lower blood pressure - clinical trial

by King's College London


Eating a handful of blueberries daily has health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, faster reaction time, and improved memory and brain cognition.


The health benefits of eating more 'fruits and vegetables' in general have been well-publicised. But for brain health, plenty of research indicates that a regular intake of berry fruits - including blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and black or red grapes, among others - may be particularly helpful in supporting attention, memory and other aspects of cognition - and for preventing age-related cognitive decline.

The blue/purple colour of these fruits comes from 'anthocyanins' - a type of polyphenol also found in purple vegetables, and in red berry fruits such as raspberries, strawberries and redcurrants. 

Laboratory and pre-clinical studies have long shown that these polyphenols can help to protect brain and nerve cells from oxidative stress, which unless counteracted, contributes to age-related degenerative diseases like dementia.

In addition, population studies have shown that adherence to the 'MIND' diet - which particularly recommends berries (and green leafy vegetables) over other vegetables - may be more protective against cognitive decline and dementia than the Mediterranean and 'DASH' diets recommended for cardiovascular health (with which the MIND diet shares many other key elements, such as regular consumption of fish and seafood and whole grains, and avoidance of ultra-processed foods high in sugar, refined vegetable oils and artificial additives). 

This new study adds to the evidence that regular consumption of blueberries may help to support brain health; and importantly, it is a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial - i.e. the kind of study that can actually provide clear evidence of cause and effect.

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30/03/2023 - Medical Xpress

New research from King's Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine has found that eating a handful of wild blueberries daily has health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, faster reaction time, and improved memory and brain cognition.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was led by researchers from King's and the University of Reading. It involved a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial of 61 healthy men and women aged 65 to 80, who drank a beverage made with 26 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder (equivalent to about 178 grams of whole berries) while the other group drank a matching placebo.

Over twelve weeks, researchers found that volunteers who consumed the berry powder in drinks experienced better memory and an improved accuracy on attention tasks, as well as lower blood pressure. Also during this period, after consuming berries the blood pressure of the test group was lower when compared to the placebo group, in addition to having an increased flow mediated dilation (FMD), which leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos said, "This study is the first of its kind and the results suggest that a daily intake of wild blueberries could help lower people's risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering their blood pressure and improving blood vessel function.

"We know from previous research that there are potential advantages from consuming blueberries, but this study went further by exploring how a daily and dietary achievable measure of blueberries could benefit our cognitive and cardiovascular health simultaneously in a healthy older population.

"We think the blue pigments in blueberries, the anthocyanins, which are a type of polyphenols also present in other foods such as strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and purple vegetables, are behind these effects as increases in their metabolites were seen in the urine of the volunteers after 12 weeks consumption."

Professor Claire Williams, Chair of the Neuroscience Department for University of Reading, said, "It's clear from this study that consuming wild blueberries is beneficial to cognitive function, as well as vascular health. The group who had the wild blueberry powder showed signs of better memory and greater mental flexibility when completing cognitive tasks.

"This is consistent with what we already know about the health benefits of anthocyanin-rich foods. It points to an important role of polyphenols in healthy aging."

The study was funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.