At the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), researchers presented their study of the effects of blueberries on the brain, ScienceDaily reports. ACS is a nonprofit organization chartered by the US Congress; it is the world’s largest scientific society. The study was funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the National Institute on Aging, and Wild Blueberries of North America. The study was similar to ACS’s previous research on blueberries and brain function in older adults and was conducted to verify these previous findings. The aim of the research was to find solutions for degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease as Alzheimer’s is a rapidly growing problem with an estimate of 5.3 million sufferers. It is believed that the number will rise to 7 million by 2025, according to Alzheimer’s Association. Such an alarming trend has prompted Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., the leader of the research team, and his colleagues to find solutions to prevent and treat this illness.
Blueberries as superfood Blueberries are already considered to be a superfood and are linked to various health benefits, such as preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer. The antioxidant Anthocyanin found in blueberries seems to be responsible for blueberries’ effects on brain health, Krikorian states. Anthocyanins are types of flavonoids or plant oxidants that serve a protective purpose in plants. But these antioxidants are also beneficial for the health of those who consume them. How exactly antioxidants work inside the body is still a scientific mystery. This is because scientists have not yet developed the adequate techniques to research antioxidants’ mechanisms of action once ingested. However, what is now known is the health effects in those who eat antioxidant-rich foods in comparison with those who do not.
The study The research included two separate study groups. The first study group involved 47 people 68 years and older, with signs of mild cognitive impairment. They were given either blueberry powder or placebo powder over a period of sixteen weeks. At the end of the study, the blueberry powder group showed improvement in cognitive functioning in comparison with the placebo group. The research team also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see if there were any visible changes in the research groups and the results were in agreement with the first findings. These results seem quite promising and give a reason for optimism.
The second study was conducted on 95 people aged 62 to 80 who did not have any diagnosed cognitive impairment, but believed subjectively that their cognition and memory was declining. The people in this group were given blueberry powder, fish oil, fish oil and powder and placebo respectively. The results were not as striking as with the first group. The people given powder supplements showed only slight improvement in cognition, but no improvement in memory. fMRI scans also showed no significant changes in the second group. The results in the second group seem to bring some confusion when compared to the first group.
The team’s discussion Krikorian believes that these findings suggest that blueberries might have a significant effect on patients with serious cognitive issues, but not be useful for people who suffer from minor memory or cognitive problems. Krikorian plans to conduct another research on younger people between 50 and 65 years of age who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study will be conducted with the hopes of determining if blueberries truly are the preventive cure for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease causes severe cognitive problems. It progresses slowly and has a bad prognosis. Older people, above 65 years of age, are usually affected, but there are relatively rare cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease can be distressing to both sufferers and their families as the families witness their loved ones forgetting their names and being unable to function normally. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and with the growing number of sufferers each day, there is an urgency to put more effort into research aimed at finding a cure or, at least, preventive treatments for this disease.
Krikorian and his team of researchers might be on the right track of finding a preventive treatment for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. It is still a long way to discovery because antioxidants’ effects on the body remain an enigma. Also, the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still a mystery. Other than there being a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s, nobody knows for sure what causes it. While scientists are working on their Alzheimer’s research, what the general public can do is include blueberries in their diet if they don’t already. Blueberries and other berries will provide plenty of health benefits, and they might also help those suffering from memory or thinking problems. After all, adding this superfood to diet can do no harm.