Blueberries could be used to fight Alzheimer’s, researchers suggest

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BLUEBERRIES are a popular fruit, easily added to cereals, salads and desserts or eaten as a sweet treat in their own right. They are also known by some as a “superfood,” containing a wide variety of nutrients that offer protection against conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Now, researchers believe that they may have a part to play in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
A senior woman is holding a bowl of blueberries. Lead author Robert Krikorian will present the findings of two studies – conducted by the team from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center in Ohio – at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” Krikorian states.
The deep blue coloring of blueberries is due to compounds called anthocyanins, which are also found in other fruits and vegetables with similar colors, such as cranberries, red cabbage and eggplants.
Previous research has attributed protection against cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and some forms of cancer to anthocyanins. It is these anthocyanins, as well as high levels of antioxidants in the berries, that the researchers suggest are behind the beneficial effects they believe their studies illustrate.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2015, an estimated 5.3 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. Of these people, it is estimated that 5.1 million were aged 65 and older.
As the proportion of the US population aged 65 and older increases, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase. The Alzheimer’s Association predict that by 2025, the number of people in this age group with the disease will increase by 40%, to 7.1 million people.
Earlier clinical trials conducted by Krikorian and the team indicated that blueberries could have an effect on the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms, and so two follow-up studies were carried out.The first study followed 47 adults with mild cognitive impairment aged 68 and older who received a portion of freeze-dried blueberry powder – equivalent to a serving of fresh blueberries – or a placebo powder once a day for a total of 16 weeks.
Krikorian reports that those who had the blueberry powder demonstrated an improvement in both cognitive performance and brain function in comparison with those who received the placebo.

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