Eating wild blueberries every day could reverse cognitive decline in older people, according to a new study that highlights potential findings from the often-dubbed superfood.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that older Americans who already suffered from demonstrable cognitive problems could greatly benefit from eating the fruit every day. In many cases, their brain health reached the same levels as people with no known history of cognitive decline.
There are currently no known cures for conditions such as dementia. Nor have reliable treatments been discovered to slow its progression. The findings of this study are potentially groundbreaking and show that a simple fruit can potentially do what medicine developed after decades of medical research could not.
Blueberries have long been known as a “superfood,” with their antioxidant properties and host of other vitamins and minerals linked to brain health and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, among other health benefits.
Eating wild blueberries every day can reverse cognitive decline and improve overall brain health, according to a new study
The researchers, who published their findings earlier this month in Nutritional Neurosciencegathered data from 86 older adults between 65 and 80 years old.
The group all self-reported cognitive problems. Another 43 people in the same age range with no reported brain problems were recruited to serve as a control group.
After an initial assessment for cognitive functioning at the start of the study, the participants were divided into two groups: one added wild blueberry powder to their diets and the other was a placebo.
Dr. Carol Cheatham, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UNC who led the research, explained to DailyMail.com that this study specifically used wild blueberries from Maine.
The phytochemicals in the berries have developed defenses against skin cancer, pests, and other elements in the harsh environment of the Northeast.
As a result, these phytochemicals are rich in chemicals that are great for a person’s cognitive health.
“Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that are developed to defend the plant from environmental stresses, fungi, bacteria and viruses,” Dr. Mary Ann Lila, an author on the paper from North Carolina State University, said in a statement.
Dr. Carol Cheatham (pictured), lead author of the study, said she mixes two cups of blueberries into her diet every day to improve her brain health
‘Once consumed by humans, they transfer these health benefits to us. Research study conducted here at NRI shows that specific phytochemicals in wild blueberries are important for brain health.’
The participants mixed the powder into their food every day. Six months later, they underwent cognitive health screenings again.
The researchers found that those who ate the blueberries every day had a big recovery in their mental processing speed after their period.
It was reset to the point that, on average, they had the same processing speed as the control group that reported no cognitive decline.
Processing speed is the brain’s ability to store and then recall information. Researchers note that it is key to all brain functions, and its improvement shows an overall jump in brain health.
Although the study was relatively small, Cheatham is hopeful that his team has found a natural solution to the cognitive problems that affect millions of Americans.
These wild blueberries are available in the frozen fruit section of many grocery stores across the United States.
However, if a person can’t find them, he recommends any blue-colored fruit, such as other blueberries, purple grapes, or blackberries, for a minor boost in cognitive health.
Cheatham said that she personally mixed blueberries into her daily diet, blending about two cups into a smoothie every morning.
An average person hoping to keep their brain in tip-top shape is advised to mix the berries into their diet every day if possible, and even amounts much smaller than the daily intake of Cheatham can be effective.
“Eating wild blueberries has no side effects,” he said.