Blueberries are a nutrient-rich food well-known for their diverse health benefits, from cancer-fighting properties to helping diabetics maintain insulin levels. Now, new research suggests that eating a handful of wild blueberries can improve brain and heart health.
Researchers from the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King's College London evaluated 61 healthy participants, men and women, aged 65 to 80. Participants received a daily drink of 26 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder for 12 weeks, while the control group was given a placebo.
The blueberry drink was equivalent to 178 grams of whole blueberries, which is approximately 75-80 blueberries.
How did blueberry drink affect the study subjects?
After three months, researchers found that the group that took the blueberry drink improved short-term memory and exhibited faster reaction times. This group was also better at remembering word lists and switching between tasks. Participants also showed improvement in systolic blood pressure and vascular function compared to the control group.
Researchers believe that the beneficial effects of blueberries are found in their blue pigments called anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol found to be effective in increasing cardiovascular and cerebral blood flow. These pigments are found in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and purple vegetables. Other foods containing anthocyanins are broccoli, pears and spices like turmeric.
Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, the study's lead author, stated that evidence shows the health benefits of other anthocyanin-rich foods, and there's no reason to think they won't work as well as blueberries, as long as the amount of anthocyanins supplied with such foods is sufficient, and that the anthocyanins are able to be absorbed by the body.
According to experts, the cardiac and cognitive benefits aren't limited to wild blueberries, as previous studies have found similar benefits in other types of blueberries.