Blueberries may help fight Alzheimer’s

March 24, 2016

A study presented at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) shows that the blueberry may help improve memory and cognitive function in older adults. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center conducted two human studies to follow up on earlier clinical trials. One study involved 47 adults aged 68 and older, who had mild cognitive impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers gave them either freeze-dried blueberry powder, which is equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks.

They found that there was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo. The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts. The team also conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which showed increased brain activity in those who ingested the blueberry powder.

The second study included 94 people aged 62–80, who were divided into four groups. The participants didn’t have objectively measured cognitive issues, but they subjectively felt their memories were declining. The groups received blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil and powder, or placebo.

“The results were not as robust as with the first study,” said Robert Krikorian, leader of the research team. “Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or fish oil separately, but there was little improvement with memory.” Also, fMRI results also were not as striking for those receiving blueberry powder. He says that the effect may have been smaller in this case because these participants had less severe issues when they entered the study.

Krikorian concluded that two studies indicate that blueberries may be more effective in treating patients with cognitive impairments, but may not show measurable benefit for those with minor memory issues or who have not yet developed cognitive problems.

The study was funded in part by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the National Institute on Aging, and Wild Blueberries of North America.

Press release