Eat Blueberries for Cognitive and Heart Health

A cup of wild blueberries is more than a tasty treat. Researchers have discovered that adding blueberries to your diet can boost brain function and cardiovascular health. According to a new study, blueberries contain a powerful compound called anthocyanins that improve blood flow in both the brain and heart. These polyphenols have been linked to a range of health benefits, and are responsible for the brain-boosting effects of this sweet snack.

In a 12-week study, participants who consumed a daily drink made from freeze-dried wild blueberry powder experienced improved executive function, strengthened short-term memory, and faster reaction times. Not only that, but they also saw a reduction in systolic blood pressure and improved blood vessel function compared to those who consumed a placebo powder. Participants who ate blueberries also had better recall abilities and improved accuracy in switching tasks.

The experiment took place in London and involved 61 healthy volunteers between the ages of 65 and 80. For 12 weeks, half of the participants drank a daily beverage containing 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder while the other half consumed a placebo drink that looked and tasted identical. This method of using powdered food is a common practice for its precise measurements. The quantity of blueberry powder consumed was equivalent to 178g of whole blueberries or approximately 75-80 blueberries.

According to science, blueberries don’t necessarily have to be wild to provide cognitive and vascular health benefits. Several studies have been conducted with different types of blueberries that yielded positive outcomes. It all comes down to the blue pigments found in these berries, called anthocyanins, which are a type of polyphenol. The researchers in one particular study found that a daily dose of wild blueberry powder, containing 302 milligrams of anthocyanins, had significant positive effects.

From the current understanding, the exact way in which polyphenols promote health benefits remains somewhat of a mystery. One idea that has been proposed is that the “metabolites” of polyphenols (which are the substances formed when they are broken down by the body) may be able to act as signals and exert influence over various cellular pathways. In particular, they seem to be able to impact levels of nitric oxide and different enzymes. Interestingly, the study found that participants showed higher levels of anthocyanin metabolites in their urine at the end of the period. This is a fascinating glimpse into the complex and multifaceted workings of polyphenols within the body.

The study showed promising results in improving cerebral and vascular blood flow. It’s fascinating to think that by eating such a simple fruit, one can reap so many benefits for both heart and brain health. However, the study did not find any differences in arterial stiffness and blood lipids between those who consumed blueberries and those who took a placebo. But the researchers suggested that polyphenols found in the fruit may boost the abundance of beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut, leading to increased production of butyrate. It’s a tantalizing theory that needs further exploration to confirm its validity.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Wild blueberry (poly)phenols can improve vascular function and cognitive performance in healthy older individuals: a double-blind randomized controlled trial