Daily blueberries for cognitive and vascular health
30 March 2023
Researchers have found that the equivalent of a handful of wild blueberries in the morning helped people improve their memory and lower their blood pressure, in a new study.
The study, published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved a 12-week clinical trial of wild blueberry powder, led by researchers from King’s College London and the University of Reading.
Professor Claire Williams, University of Reading said: “It’s clear from this study that consuming wild blueberries is beneficial to cognitive function, as well as vascular health. We saw improvements in healthy older adults who consumed a freeze-dried wild blueberry powder, daily, for 12 weeks.
“The group who had the wild blueberry powder showed signs of better memory and greater mental flexibility when completing cognitive tasks.
“This is consistent with what we already know about the health benefits of dark purple fruits, which contain pigments called polyphenols. It points to an important role of polyphenols in healthy ageing.”
Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, King’s College London, said: “We think the blue pigments in blueberries, the anthocyanins, which are a type of polyphenols also present in other foods such as strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and purple vegetables, are behind these effects as increases in their metabolites were seen in the urine of the volunteers after 12 weeks consumption.
“This study is the first of its kind and the results suggest that a daily intake of wild blueberries could help lower people’s risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering their blood pressure and improving blood vessel function.”
The study involved a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial of 61 healthy men and women aged ages 65 to 80, who drank a beverage made with 26 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder (equivalent to about 178 grams of whole berries), whilst the other group drank a placebo matched for macro and micronutrients, as well as fibre, colour and taste.
The researchers found that over the course of twelve weeks, volunteers who consumed the berry powder in drinks experienced better memory and an 8.5% improved performance on an attention task, as well as lower blood pressure.
The blood pressure of the test group was significantly lower (3.59 mmHg) after consuming berries over 12 weeks when compared to the placebo group, in addition to experiencing an increased flow mediated dilation (FMD) of 0.86%, which is a biomarker of cardiovascular disease risk and good function of the blood vessels.
Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Reader in Nutrition at the Department of Nutritional Sciences of King’s College London, said: “We know from previous research that there are potential advantages from consuming blueberries, but this study went further by exploring how a daily and dietary achievable measure of blueberries could benefit our cognitive and cardiovascular health simultaneously in a healthy older population.”