Growing research shows you can “find your thrill on blueberry hill,” as famously crooned by Fats Domino.
In fact, in recent years, studies have consistently found that eating blueberries can protect you against any number of age-related health problems—including cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome. And now—a new, large meta-analysis of 11 previously published studies has found that eating blueberries can help you improve your cognitive function…no matter your age!
I’ll tell you all about that interesting study in a moment. But first, let’s back up to discuss all the nutrition packed in these tiny berries…
Off-the-charts antioxidant potency
If you grew up in New England, as I did (or in Canada or America’s upper Midwest), blueberries might seem rather ordinary to you. There, they grow naturally in the craggy, post-glacial terrain.
But really—there’s no fruit more extraordinary than blueberries. In fact, they’re one of the very few foods I would ever consider worthy of the “superfood” label.
Just one cup of blueberries provides nearly four grams of fiber, one-quarter of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and over one-third of your daily vitamin K.
Of course, several years ago, scientists began to closely study blueberries, trying to pinpoint exactly how they benefit our health. And, initially, they tried to single out flavonoids as the compounds deserving all the credit.
For example, blueberries contain a powerful type of flavonoid called anthocyanins, which have been shown to have antioxidant, antidiabetic, antibacterial, and anticarcinogenic properties. (Interestingly, wild blueberries contain three times as many flavonoids as cultivated varieties. And, as any New Englander could tell you, wild blueberries just taste better!)
But I always caution against trying to single out any one compound in a natural food or drink. (Some scientists take this approach because they want to find a specific ingredient they can copy and turn into a drug.)
The thing is, natural, whole foods—like blueberries—usually contain many different active constituents that work together, synergistically. So, singling out any one specific ingredient simply misses the forest for the trees.
With that in mind, let’s move on to discuss some of the research showing how blueberries affect health. It turns out, some of the most striking, recent studies involve blueberries’ effect on the older brain…
Blueberries improve cognitive function in older adults
In one recent study, researchers with the University of Exeter in the U.K. gathered 26 healthy men and women, ages 65 to 77, and gave them either concentrated blueberry juice—the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries—or a placebo once a day.
Then, after 12 weeks, the researchers gave the participants a series of cognitive tests and took MRI scans of their brains.
It turns out, the blueberry group performed substantially better on the tests than the placebo group. They also had better blood flow and activation in the memory and cognition centers of their brains.
In another recent study, researchers found that eating blueberries benefits cognitive function in people of all ages…even children!
Eating blueberries benefits people in all stages of life
In this new analysis, researchers reviewed 11 previously published studies that looked at blueberry consumption across many different age groups. Three studies involved older adults who already had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Four studies involved cognitively-healthy adults over 60. And the remaining four involved children ages 7 to 10 years.
It turns out, older adults, both with and without MCI, who regularly consumed blueberries experienced improvements in executive function, memory, and psychomotor function—which is strongly associated with increased lifespan and longevity. And in children, regularly eating blueberries benefitted executive function and memory.
So, there you have it.
Eating blueberries supports cognitive function—no matter your age, or even your current state of memory impairment. Which means it’s never too early—or too late—to start eating more!
You can eat them raw by the handful or toss them into your plain, full-fat Greek yogurt. I also enjoy them in my salad with broiled, fresh-caught fish and nuts.
Just make sure to opt for organic varieties, as blueberries often top the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of fruits that carry the heaviest pesticide burden.
Or—better yet—if you live in the northern part of the country, consider planting your own blueberry bush. In the right conditions, it will live and produce fruit for at least four to five decades. And, if you plant two or more bushes, try different varieties of the fruits for cross-pollination, which will help increase the yield. Then, you can enjoy all the health benefits of these tasty berries, fresh off the bush. (Which is especially helpful now, in the age of coronavirus!)
If you don’t have a green thumb, you can also try dry, powdered, water-soluble blueberry extract, which can be added to any beverage, smoothie, or juiced drink.
Just remember—you want to take a blueberry extract in doses that are found in food quantities. That’s why I never recommend those little, dried fruit/vegetable capsules. (It might have been fine for the “Jetsons,” but don’t kid yourself here.) Instead, look for blueberry powder and blueberry blends combined with other food powders. Then, add it to water or juice by the spoonful, according to the directions.
Of course, there are many other safe and effective approaches to preventing and even reversing the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s (AD) and dementia, in addition to eating more blueberries. You can learn all about them in my comprehensive, online learning tool, my Complete Alzheimer’s Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more, or enroll today, simply click here.
“Systematic Review of the Effects of Blueberry on Cognitive Performance as We Age.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 18;74(7):984-995. doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glz082.
“Enhanced task related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation.” Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017;42(7):773-779. doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0550