From slowing cognitive decline to accelerating chronic wound healing, blueberries can have many surprising health benefits. Now, scientists at the University of Cincinnati have uncovered that adding blueberries to your daily diet in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia later in life. The findings revealed both physiological and cognitive improvements just 12 weeks after the addition of blueberries to the participants’ daily diets.
“We had observed cognitive benefits with blueberries in prior studies with older adults and thought they might be effective in younger individuals with insulin resistance,” said lead author Robert Krikorian, who has been studying the benefits of blueberries for brain health for several years. “Alzheimer’s disease, like all chronic diseases of aging, develops over a period of many years beginning in midlife.”
As part of the new study, the scientists enrolled 33 adults between 50 and 65 years old, all of whom were overweight, prediabetic, and reported noticing mild memory decline with aging. Half of the participants were then given a 12-week supply of freeze-dried whole blueberry powder, while the other received a placebo powder over the same period.
Before and after the 12 weeks, the scientists gave the participants several tests that measured cognitive abilities that typically deteriorate with aging and late-life dementia. These included executive functions such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-control.
According to Krikorian, those who consumed the blueberry powder showed significant cognitive improvements in cognitive tasks related to executive control. Plus, the blueberry-treated group displayed an improvement in fasting insulin levels and a higher degree of mitochondrial uncoupling, a cellular process linked to a longer and healthier life.
However, it’s important to note the limitations of the study, such as the short duration and the small sample size. As such, it’s too early to say with high certainty that blueberries are a powerful tool against late-life dementia.
“The sample size is an obvious limitation of the study, so it will be important to reproduce these findings, especially by other investigators,” said Krikorian. “In the meantime, it might be a good idea to consume blueberries on a regular basis.”
Source study: Nutrients — Blueberry Supplementation in Midlife for Dementia Risk Reduction