Eat Blueberries Regularly to Delay Memory Decline

July 28, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

Research suggests that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

July is National Blueberry Month! There are many reasons to celebrate the wonders of blueberries, and even more reasons to add them to your diet. They are delicious, versatile, and deliver dozens of health benefits. A research study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) determined that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

The study obtained data from 120,000 nurses enrolled in BWH’s landmark Nurses’ Health Study. Starting in 1976, nurses aged 30-55 were asked to self-report their food consumption by filling out food frequency questionnaires every four years. In 1995, 16,010 nurses then took memory tests every two years to test for associations between cognitive decline and regular berry consumption. Women who consumed two or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to women who did not regularly consume berries.

“Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults,” says epidemiologist Elizabeth Devore, ScD, lead author of the study and researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH.

Devore and her colleagues believe these brain-boosting benefits are due to the abundance of anthocyanins present in berries. Anthocyanins are a class of flavonoids with strong antioxidant activity and are found in many fruits and berries with blue, red, and dark purple hues.

Blueberries, which are particularly high in anthocyanins, are also high in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. They also have tremendous health benefits, are anti-aging, boost the immune system, and help protect against illnesses and diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurological diseases.

Additional research from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that consuming two servings of blueberries per week may reduce risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers analyzed all fruits separately and found that blueberries, grapes, and apples particularly lowered risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Blueberries were most protective.

Eating blueberries twice a week is an easy and effective dietary addition to try in July and throughout the year.

- Skylar M.
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