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Study Confirms Blueberry Enhances Cognition and Metabolism

18 September 2021
Giulio Prisco

Blueberry

Researchers have investigated cognitive and metabolic outcomes in middle-aged adults following wild blueberry consumption. Previous research demonstrated cognitive and metabolic health benefits following blueberry consumption in children and young adults. This study has extended previous research work to middle-aged persons.

Thirty-five persons aged 40-65 years participated in a study, as described in a research paper published in European Journal of Nutrition. On two occasions, along with breakfast, the participants consumed either a cup of wild blueberry juice or a placebo beverage. The participants completed the cognitive tasks described below, and had blood drawn before and at regular intervals for eight hours after each meal. Researchers evaluated changes in the cognitive and metabolic parameters described below.

The wild blueberry beverage included 25 g freeze-dried whole wild blueberry powder. The placebo beverage contained the same ingredients minus the wild blueberry powder.

Participants were given auditory stimuli to evaluate executive control functions essential to working memory, new learning, and retention (long-term memory). The protocol included two tasks measuring executive abilities and one test of episodic memory. The participants were also administered an Auditory Verbal Learning Task (AVLT) to evaluate learning, recall, and recognition memory. The AVLT is a simple word list learning task that usually requires less executive ability than other types of learning and memory tasks that involve integration and organization of complex material.

Similar to previous research with other age groups, cognitive performance was improved in the wild blueberry group, compared to the placebo group, on delayed recognition memory and aspects of executive function. Importantly, these benefits were found on more demanding elements of the tasks where some form of additional cognitive effort was required.

Participants in the wild blueberry group also had significantly lower glucose and insulin levels after the meal, compared to the placebo group. The researchers state that this is the first study to examine wild blueberry effects relative to metabolic responses in a middle-age population with realistic rest and fatigue patterns.

The conclusions of the study suggest that wild blueberries can improve the cognitive skills and brain function of middle-aged persons without cognitive impairments, particularly in the context of demanding tasks and cognitive fatigue. Further research is required to understand the underlying mechanism by which wild blueberry consumption improves cognitive functions. Moreover, wild blueberries improve the metabolic response to a meal in terms of glucose and insulin levels.

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