The fruit ‘important for brain health’

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One study, conducted by the University of Carolina, suggests eating wild blueberries could reverse cognitive decline in elderly individuals.

The researchers found elderly individuals could benefit significantly if they ate the food every day; a result which some consider potentially ground-breaking.

Publishing their findings in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, they gathered data from 86 adults between the ages of 65 and 80.

While all in this first group reported cognitive issues, another 43 with cognitive ailments were also recruited to act as a control.

It was by comparing the control group of 43 and the active group of 86 that the surprising findings for wild blueberries were ascertained.

The researchers said this could be in large part down to the presence of phytochemicals in blueberries; these have evolved defences from skin cancer and other elements in the environment.

Author of the paper, Dr Mary Ann Lila, said: “Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that develop to defend the plant from environmental stress, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.”

“Once consumed by humans, they transfer these health benefits to us. The research study conducted here at the NRI shows that the phytochemicals specific to the wild blueberry are important for brain health.”

This study could be crucial for future research into dementia, a disease which takes the lives of around 67,000 Britons every year and around one in three people born today are projected to become affected by in the future.

However, this isn’t the only study which has linked blueberries to dementia risk. Another study, conducted by the University of Cincinnati, has also looked into the effect of blueberries on the mind.

The paper, published in the Nutrients journal, shows that regular blueberry consumption could reduce someone’s risk of dementia.

Robert Krikorian, one of the authors of the study, said: “We had observed cognitive benefits with blueberries in prior studies with older adults and thought they might be effective in younger individuals with insulin resistance. Alzheimer’s disease, like all chronic diseases of ageing, develops over a period of many years beginning in midlife.”

In common with the University of California study, this project had a small participant cohort of around 33. This patient cohort was between the ages of 50 and 65 and was overweight and had noticed mild memory decline.

Over a 12 week period, the group were asked to abstain from berry consumption barring the use of supplement powder containing similar compounds to those found in blueberries.

As well as reducing their risk of dementia, those who consumed blueberries showed improved results in cognitive tasks and better metabolic function.

They also experienced lower levels of oxidative stress, a condition which can lead to fatigue and memory loss.

On this final finding, Krikorian said it pointed “to an interesting, potential mechanism for blueberry benefits”.

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