How Blueberries May Help Improve Brain Function

Mar 13 2017 - 2:09pm

Not only is this berry tasty, it is loaded with nutrients that helps you enjoy good health well into old age.

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blueberries and brain function

What is your favorite fruit? According to the US Census Bureau, it is probably the banana as Americans eat more of this than any other type of fresh fruit. This is followed by apples, watermelons, grapes and oranges. Strawberries are our most favorite type of berry, as a population.

But if you really want to pack a nutritional punch, perhaps you should try to eat more blueberries.

Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacity among all fruits, vegetables, and spices. Antioxidants are essential to health as they combat free radicals that contribute to cellular damage and aging. Of all the parts of the body, your brain may be the one to benefit most.

These little blue fruits have been shown to improve brain function, especially in older people. And the effects seemed especially good when drinking concentrated blueberry juice.

In a study by the University of Exeter, healthy people aged 65-77 who drank just 1 ounce of blueberry juice every day for 12 weeks showed improvements in cognitive function, blood flow to the brain and activation of the brain while carrying out cognitive tests. There was also evidence suggesting improvement in working memory.

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Research suggests that a large part of the cognitive protection that blueberries provide is due to nerve cell protection from oxygen damage. Anthocyanins (which give the berries their color) are especially rich in blueberries. Other phytonutrients contained in the fruit are hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, flavonols, and phenol-related nutrients such as resveratrol.

Dr Joanna Bowtell, study author, said: "Our cognitive function tends to decline as we get older, but previous research has shown that cognitive function is better preserved in healthy older adults with a diet rich in plant-based foods."

The best season for fresh blueberries in the US are between the months of May and October. Remember when purchased fresh, they should be refrigerated to help preserve nutrition. Out of season, blueberries can easily be purchased frozen and while their texture may be off as compared to fresh, they do retain their antioxidant potential.

Blueberries are a great addition to morning cereal (both hot and cold) and as a fruity topping for salads. Blueberries are also great as a dessert (yogurt parfait, or topped onto fresh made ice cream) and as a part of a smoothie or milkshake.

Journal Reference:
Joanna L. Bowtell, Zainie Aboo-Bakkar, Myra Conway, Anna-Lynne R. Adlam, Jonathan Fulford. Enhanced task related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017; DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2016-0550

Additional Reference:
The World’s Healthiest Foods

Photo Credit:
By atul666 from Portland, USA - blueberries, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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