Summary: Adding a handful of blueberries to your daily diet can help reduce blood pressure, improve memory and cognitive function, and boost reaction times.
Source: King’s College London
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 randomised, 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) whilst 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.
“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,” said Dr Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Reader in Nutrition at the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
Dr Rodriguez-Mateos added: “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.
This shows a hand filled with blueberries
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. Image is in the public domain
“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.”
Funding: The study was funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.
About this cognition and diet research news
Author: Ana Rodriguez-Mateos
Source: King’s College London
Contact: Ana Rodriguez-Mateos – King’s College London
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Open access.
“Wild Blueberry (Poly)phenols can Improve Vascular Function And Cognitive Performance In Healthy Older Males And Females: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial” by Ana Rodriguez-Mateos et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Wild Blueberry (Poly)phenols can Improve Vascular Function And Cognitive Performance In Healthy Older Males And Females: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial
Evidence suggests that intake of blueberry (poly)phenols is associated with improvements in vascular function and cognitive performance. Whether these cognitive effects are linked to increases in cerebral and vascular blood flow or changes in the gut microbiota is currently unknown.
A double-blind, parallel randomized controlled trial was conducted in 61 healthy older individuals aged 65-80 y. Participants received either 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberry (WBB) powder (302 mg anthocyanins) or a matched placebo (0 mg anthocyanins). Endothelial function measured by flow-mediated dilation (FMD), cognitive function, arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), cerebral blood flow (CBF), gut microbiome and blood parameters were measured at baseline and 12 weeks following daily consumption. Plasma and urinary (poly)phenol metabolites were analyzed using micro-elution solid phase-extraction coupled with LC-MS.
A significant increase in FMD and reduction in 24 h ambulatory systolic BP were found in the WBB group compared to placebo (0.86%; 95% CI 0.56, 1.17, p<0.001; -3.59 mmHg; 95% CI -6.95, -0.23, p=0.037; respectively). Enhanced immediate recall on the auditory verbal learning task, alongside better accuracy on a task-switch task were also found following WBB treatment compared to placebo (p<0.05). Total 24 h urinary (poly)phenol excretion increased significantly in the WBB group compared to placebo. No changes in CBF or gut microbiota composition were found.
Daily intake of WBB powder, equivalent to 178 g fresh weight, improves vascular and cognitive function, and decreases 24h ambulatory systolic BP in healthy older individuals. This suggests that WBB (poly)phenols may reduce future cardiovascular disease (CVD) disease risk in an older population, and may improve episodic memory processes and executive functioning in older adults at risk of cognitive decline.
Clinical Trial Registration number in clinicaltrials.gov