They’re sweet, refreshing and a delightfully delicious treat. They are a great addition to just about any breakfast food, snack or salad — and are just as good by the handful. Blueberries are also known for their myriad of healthy attributes: They’re loaded with fiber, antioxidants and an array of essential vitamins and minerals.
Studies have shown that blueberries can be beneficial for a wide range of conditions: Managing diabetes, lowering blood pressure, preventing heart disease and fighting off cancer are just some of the amazing things that consuming blueberries can do for your body. They can also help to keep you full and promote weight loss, and these little berries may even help to fight some of the signs of aging — perhaps even the aging of your brain.
Blueberries boost cognitive function
New research has shown that these deeply hued berries can be quite beneficial to your brain. A study piloted by researchers from the University of Exeter has found that drinking concentrated blueberry juice can yield cognitive benefits for older individuals.
To conduct their analysis, the researchers recruited 26 healthy people that were between 65 and 77 years of age. Twelve participants were asked to consume 30 mL of concentrated blueberry juice daily, which is equivalent to consuming 230 g of the berries a day. The remaining 14 individuals were given a placebo. Anyone who reported consuming more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day was excluded from the study, and the scientists asked that all participants adhere to their regular diet throughout the experiment’s duration. Those partaking in the study were asked to consume their blueberry juice or placebo every day for 12 weeks.
Prior to beginning the experiment, all participants underwent a range of cognitive testing as well as MRI brain scanning to monitor their brain function. The test subjects’ resting brain blood flow was also measured. These tests were all repeated at the study’s conclusion approximately three months later.
In the end, the researchers found that the blueberry juice group exhibited substantial increases in brain activity in the regions of the brain related to their testing. Drinking the juice every day seemed to result in improvements in cognitive function, blood flow to the brain, and activation of the brain while performing cognitive testing activities. The evidence also suggested that the blueberry juice-drinking group showcased improvements in working memory.
Dr. Joanna Botwell, the head of Sport and Health Sciences at Exeter University, commented, “In this study we have shown that with just 12 weeks of consuming 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice every day, brain blood flow, brain activation and some aspects of working memory were improved in this group of healthy older adults.” Dr. Botwell also noted that brain function often declines as we age, but that previous research had indicated that healthy older adults who followed a plant-rich diet better preserved their cognitive function. Past studies have also shown that blueberries are especially good for preserving and improving brain function.
Are flavonoids the key?
While blueberries are high in an array of nutrients and phytonutrients, their flavonoid content is exceptional. It has been hypothesized that these flavonoid compounds are what give blueberries their profound health effects, especially when it comes to the brain. While the ways in which flavonoids exact their effects on the brain are not entirely understood, it has been shown that these phytonutrients are absorbed into the blood stream and are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier.
A number of benefits can be ascertained from dietary flavonoids in this manner. For example, it has been suggested that flavonoids may offer neuroprotective effects by protecting neurons against damage or even from the ill effects of neurotoxins. Past research has also suggested that flavonoids may also help suppress neuroinflammation, as well as promote memory, learning and cognitive function.
Research has shown that flavonoids are capable of great feats when it comes to brain health, and blueberries in particular seem to promote these astounding benefits.