Alzheimer’s Prevention: Don’t Forget the Blueberries

alzheimer's prevention
Dr. Geoffrey Harris, MD

Blueberries are back in the news–and it is good news related to Alzheimer’s prevention.

A new study reveals that the anthocyanins and polyphenols in blueberries could benefit Alzheimer’s disease and actually reverse memory problems. The study, from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School in the United Kingdom, looked at supplementing the diet of rats with blueberries and the effect on memory tasks. The researchers compared the performance of young rats with older rats. Some of the older rats received blueberry powder that was high in anthocyanins and flavonoids as a supplement to their regular feed. Anthocyanins and flavonoids are polyphenols found in blueberries that act as powerful, natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

Generally, the younger rats performed the memory tasks well, with a 90 percent accuracy rate. However, older rats only had a 57 percent accuracy rate at the same spatial memory tasks. Remarkably, the group of older rats who received blueberry powder along with their standard feed for three weeks increased their performance on the memory task from 60 to 83 percent accuracy. The polyphenols in the blueberry powder actually seemed to increase recall capacity in the rats and reverse age-related memory problems. This increase in performance was maintained throughout the blueberry supplementation period.

Blueberries are truly a SuperFood. The anthocyanins and flavonoids in blueberries help protect the entire body from free radicals and inflammation. The ways these plant nutrients affect the brain are not fully understood. Previous studies have shown that flavonoids can get to brain cells by crossing the blood-brain barrier, but their effect on these nerve cells is unknown. It is likely that polyphenols in blueberries improve nerve connections and stimulate cell repair. Further research is ongoing, and the research team is going to expand their investigation to include people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The results of this current study will be published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the journal of the Society of Free Radical Biology and Medicine, under the title “Blueberry-induced changes in spatial working memory correlate with changes in hippocampal CREB phosphorylation and BDNF levels.”

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