Eating wild blueberries every day can reverse cognitive decline in older adults, a new study highlights a potential finding of what is often referred to as a superfood.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that older Americans who already suffer from significant cognitive problems could benefit greatly from eating the fruit daily. In many cases, they had the same level of brain health as someone without a known history of cognitive decline.
There is currently no known cure for diseases such as dementia. No reliable treatment has been found to slow its progression either. The results of this study could be groundbreaking, showing that a simple fruit may do things that medicine developed over decades of medical research cannot.
Blueberries have long been called a “superfood,” and their antioxidant properties and a variety of other vitamins and minerals have been linked to brain health, reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and other health benefits.
Eating wild blueberries daily can reverse cognitive decline and boost overall brain health, a new study finds
The researchers, who published their findings earlier this month in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, collected data on 86 older adults between the ages of 65 and 80.
All self-reported cognitive problems in this group. An additional 43 people in the same age range who did not report brain problems were recruited as a control group.
After an initial screening to determine cognitive function at the start of the study, the participants were divided into two groups—one group added wild blueberry powder to their diets, and the other group received a placebo.
Dr. Carol Cheatham, an UNC associate professor of psychology and neuroscience who led the study, explained to DailyMail.com that the study exclusively used wild blueberries from Maine.
In the harsh northeastern environment, phytochemicals in the berries have evolved to ward off skin cancer, pests, and other elements.
Therefore, these phytochemicals are rich in chemicals that are very beneficial to a person’s cognitive health.
“Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that protect them from environmental stressors, fungi, bacteria and viruses,” Dr. Mary Ann Leila, author of the NC State paper, said in a statement.
The study’s lead author, Dr Carol Cheatham (pictured), said she added two cups of blueberries to her diet a day to boost her brain health
“Once consumed by humans, they transfer these health benefits to us. Research conducted at NRI shows that phytochemicals unique to wild blueberries are important for brain health.
Participants mixed the powder into their food daily. After six months, they were screened for cognitive health again.
The researchers found that people who ate blueberries daily had a significant recovery in their mental processing speed after this period.
Back on average, they had the same processing speed as a control group without cognitive decline.
Processing speed is the ability of the brain to store and then recall information. Researchers don’t think it’s the key to all brain function — its improvement suggests an overall jump in brain health.
Although the study was relatively small, Cheatham hopes her team will find natural solutions to cognitive problems that affect millions of Americans.
These wild blueberries are available in the frozen fruit section of many US grocery stores.
Still, if a person can’t find them, she recommends any blue fruit, such as other blueberries, purple grapes, or blackberries, for a smaller boost to cognitive health.
Cheatham says she personally mixes blueberries into her daily diet, mixing about two cups of blueberries into a smoothie each morning.
Regular people looking to keep their brains in top shape are advised to mix berries into their diet every day, if possible, and even berries that are much smaller than Cheatham’s daily intake are effective.
“There are no side effects from eating wild blueberries,” she said.