Blueberries, the well-known 'super fruit,' could help fight Alzheimer's

March 13, 2016
A maturing 'Polaris' blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Credit: Public Domain

The blueberry, already labeled a 'super fruit' for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be another weapon in the war against Alzheimer's disease. New research being presented today further bolsters this idea, which is being tested by many teams. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of this increasingly common form of dementia, scientists report.

The researchers present their work today at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

"Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults," says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries' beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals' cognition.

Currently 5.3 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease. But that number is expected to increase, Krikorian notes, as the U.S. population ages. By 2025, the number of Americans with this degenerative disorder could rise 40 percent to more than 7 million, and it could almost triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

In an effort to find ways to slow down this alarming trend, Krikorian and colleagues at 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 powder, which is equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks.

"There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo," Krikorian says. "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 to 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," Krikorian explained. "Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or 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 said the 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.

In the future, the team plans to conduct a blueberry study with a younger group of people, aged 50 to 65. The group would include people at risk of developing Alzheimer's, such as those who are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. This work could help the researchers determine if blueberries could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms.

Explore further: Blueberries: Small fruit delivers big reward

More information: Blueberry Fruit Supplementation in Human Cognitive Aging, the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), 2016.

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9 comments

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Whydening Gyre
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2016
'Specially good on whole grain bread with butter n peanut butter...:-)
marko
4 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2016
This could be the next big thing. Plums.

http://www.abc.ne...9411.htm
SusejDog
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2016
Just about any anthocyanin from any random berry won't work equally well for cognition. It has to be those found in blueberries.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2016
SusejDog claims
Just about any anthocyanin from any random berry won't work equally well for cognition
& basis for your claim is some evidence (?) Eg widespread study or rationale based in some way upon the pigment/flavinoid structures essential to cognitive pathways/acetylcholine uptake inhibition ?

U a food scientist/biochemist re technical nature of your post (?), have you perchance studied the odd relationship between anthocyanins & various declining mineral complexes in our diets in conjunction re select copper & zinc enzymes re iron antagonism effects ?

SusejDog claims
It has to be those found in blueberries
Why so (?) Is there a particular attribute of the Vacciniums in general not shared by Cranberries & others but only present in Blueberries & do you share the reporters view anthocyanins (re Blueberries) be primarily considered flavinoids & not pigments per se' or perhaps in case of Blueberries both apply with good overlap as maybe re Soy ?
unrealone1
not rated yet Mar 14, 2016
Glyphosate may counteract the good stuff.
dedereu
not rated yet Mar 16, 2016
Yes, with Roundup (10 to 100 times more efficient and toxic than Glyphosate alone, to kill many fast plants and slowly also humans ) , many poisons used for food and in our life, very neuro-toxic four bees and also for our nertons, like neocortinoids, thiazolinones, and remaining at low dose ( even 1ppm is neuro-toxic and kill neurons ) favors an epidemy of Alzheimer after the obesity and diabete epidemies !!

To prevent, eat bio and of known traced labeled trusted origin, like me !!

SusejDog
1 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2016
USDA Organic blueberries are conveniently available (within the US). AFAIK, glyphosate is not legally allowed in USDA Organic certified foods, but this doesn't mean it's not used. Nevertheless, these are the only blueberries I consume.

I have nothing against other types of good berries; they have their unique benefits. It's just that the benefits of blueberries are great particularly for cognition.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2016
SusejDog continues with
...they have their unique benefits
These are ?

SusejDog claims again
It's just that the benefits of blueberries are great particularly for cognition.
I asked you a question on this yet haven't answered, can you please ?

If you havent yet got any definitive evidence then the next thing down would be a start, anything please ?
SusejDog
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2016
To be fair, there are only a limited number of studies of the effects of blueberries on cognition in humans. You can find my notes for the same at https://docs.goog...nJJQ/pub . There are a lot more studies of interest done on this topic in rodents - you can of course find those on PubMed. I don't mean that to say that the effects of blueberries are limited to cognition.

Some would mention the presence of pterostilbene in blueberries, but this is irrelevant, as pterostilbene can easily be supplemented independent of blueberries.

Note that blueberry leaf extract is of independent interest as a standardized source of chlorogenic acid.

As for other berries, black raspberry (rubus occidentalis) powder is of particular interest for its cancer prevention benefits.

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