Cognitive function declines with age as the body’s cells are more susceptible to damage and death. In addition, the body produces less energy due to slower metabolism and, as a result, cells are less able to produce antioxidants and soak up free radicals.
There is evidence that simple prevention strategies, such as a diet rich in plant-based foods, can help reduce the risk of dementia and preserve cognition. Flavonoids are an essential component contributing to these effects. Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, which contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While high intake of flavonoids has been shown to help mitigate age-related cognitive decline, human studies have been limited.
According to a new study published last week, researchers demonstrated that drinking concentrated blueberry juice improves brain function in older individuals.
This study included 26 healthy individuals ranging from 65 to 77 years of age. Twelve people drank a concentrated blueberry juice daily that provided 387 mg of anthocyanidins (equaling 230 g of blueberries). In just twelve weeks improvements were noted in cognitive function, working memory, blood perfusion to the brain, and activation of the brain while performing cognitive tests.
Before and after the twelve week period, all 26 individuals took a variety of cognitive tests while an MRI scanner monitored their brain function and resting brain blood flow. As a result, those who consumed the blueberry concentrate showed significant increases in brain activity in brain areas related to the tests.
Blueberry consumption also plays a role in the reduction of amyloid β protein (Aβ) aggregation, which can disrupt mitochondrial function and lead to neuronal cell death. Pathological levels of amyloid plaques are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.1,2 Also, the cognitive improvement provided by blueberries is associated with higher brain antioxidant production of glutathione.3
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS
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Source: 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
- Soluble protein oligomers as emerging toxins in Alzheimer's and other amyloid diseases. Ferreira ST, Vieira MN, De Felice FG. IUBMB Life. 2007 Apr-May;59(4-5):332-45.
- Synaptic failure and adenosine triphosphate imbalance induced by amyloid-β aggregates are prevented by blueberry-enriched polyphenols extract. Fuentealba J, Dibarrart AJ, Fuentes-Fuentes MC, Saez-Orellana F, Quiñones K, Guzmán L, Perez C, Becerra J, Aguayo LG. J Neurosci Res. 2011 Sep;89(9):1499-508. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22679. Epub 2011 Jun 6
- Effect of a polyphenol-rich wild blueberry extract on cognitive performance of mice, brain antioxidant markers and acetylcholinesterase activity. Papandreou MA, Dimakopoulou A, Linardaki ZI, Cordopatis P, Klimis-Zacas D, Margarity M, Lamari FN. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Mar 17;198(2):352-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.11.013. Epub 2008 Nov 17.