The University of Cincinnati studies the effects of blueberry supplementation in the middle-aged, at-risk population.
The old adage says that one apple a day keeps your doctor away, but new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) suggests the potential benefits of another fruit for your health.
Researchers led by Uc’s Dr. Robert Krikorian have found that adding blueberries to the daily diet of certain middle-aged people can reduce the risk of developing late-stage dementia. The findings were recently published in the journal Nutrients.
For several years, Krikorian’s team studied the benefits of berries for people at higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Krikorian said blueberries have high levels of micronutrients and antioxidants especially anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help give blueberries the same color as their names and also help protect plants against excessive radiation exposure, infectious agents and other threats, Krikorian said.
Krikorian said the very properties that help blueberries survive also benefit humans, such as reducing inflammation, improving metabolic function and enhancing energy production in cells.
Previous berry studies krikorian led focused on older adults, but with this study, the team wanted to study people in middle age to focus on preventing dementia and minimizing risk.
Krikorian explains that about 50% of individuals in the United States develop insulin resistance, commonly known as prediabetes, around middle age. Prediabetes, he said, has been shown to be a factor in chronic diseases.
Krikorian, professor emeritus and director of the department of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry of UC Medical School said: “We have observed the cognitive benefits of blueberries with older adults and think they may be effective in young people with insulin resistance. Behavioral Neuroscience. “Alzheimer’s disease, like all chronic diseases of the aging process, develops over a period of years starting in middle age.”
Detailed research and results
The researchers recruited 33 patients from around the Cincinnati area between the ages of 50 and 65 who were overweight and prediabetes and had noticed a slight decrease in memory due to aging.
Krikorian said this population is at risk for end-of-life dementia and other common conditions.
Over a 12-week period, the patients were asked to abstain from eating berries of any kind except for a daily supplementary packet of powder mixed with water and consumed along with breakfast or dinner. Half of the participants received powders containing the equivalent of half a cup of blueberries, while the other half received a placebo.
Participants were also given tests that measured certain cognitive abilities in patients with dementia in old age and late life, such as executive functions such as working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.
Krikorian said those in the group treated with blueberries showed improvements in cognitive tasks that depended on the operator’s control.
Krikorian explains: “This is evident when it comes to reducing the interference of irrelevant information in the learning and memorization process.
Patients in the blueberry user group also had lower levels of fasting insulin, meaning the participants improved metabolic function and were able to easily burn fat for energy.
Krikorian said the blueberry group exhibited milder levels of mitochondrial detachment, a cellular process that has been linked to longer lifespans and reduced oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and memory loss.
He said: “This final discovery is only exploratory in nature but points to an exciting, potential mechanism for the benefits of blueberries.
Going forward, Krikorian said he’s interested in better understanding the exact mechanisms of blueberries that improve cognitive performance and metabolic function. But the main draw from the current study is that regular addition of blueberries to the diet is at risk in middle age may reduce the risk of developing end-of-life dementia.
“Sample size is a clear limitation of the study, so it’s important to replicate these findings, especially by other investigators,” Krikorian said. “In the meantime, it may be a good idea to consume blueberries on a regular basis.”
Reference: “Blueberry Supplementation in Middle Age to Reduce Dementia Risk” by Robert Krikorian, Matthew R. Skelton, Suzanne S. Summer, Marcelle D. Shidler and Patrick G. Sullivan, April 13, 2022, Nutritents.
DOI: 10,3390 / nu14081619
The study was funded by the Highbush Blueberry Council of Folsom, California, USA. The organization also provides research products of blueberry powder and placebo powder. The study authors claimed there was no conflict of interest. The donor organization has no role in designing the research; in the collection, analysis or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript or in the decision to publish the results.