(Health Secrets) Almost everyone thinks blueberries taste great and likes to see them on the breakfast table. But there is a lot more to love about these tiny fruits. Blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, the natural substances that fight damage caused by free radicals. This makes them highly effective in fighting aging and chronic degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. And now we know that blueberries improve memory.
Blueberries improve memory and protect the brain
Although it is not clear how blueberries affect the brain, it has been shown that the flavonoids they contain are able to cross the blood brain barrier. This enables them to influence regions in the brain involved in memory and motor function, and enhance neural connections, thereby improving cellular communication and stimulating neural regeneration.
As well as protecting the brain from free radicals, the flavonoids in blueberries protect it against radiation, inflammation, and excitotoxicity. They may even reverse decline in cognitive and motor function. In addition to their anti-aging properties, blueberries are high in the antioxidant vitamins C and E.
A recent study at the University of Cincinnati found that drinking a couple of cups of blueberry juice each day may give aging memories a boost. This study was led by Robert Krikorian, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, and was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In the study, people in their 70’s with age related memory problems were tested for learning and memory. One group of volunteers drank 16 to 20 ounces of a commercial blueberry juice every day for two months while the control group drank a non-juice beverage.
At the end of the study, the group of volunteers who drank blueberry juice showed significant improvements on tests for learning and memory compared to the control group. The study scientists concluded that the preliminary findings were encouraging and that “consistent supplementation with blueberries might offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration.”
Previous animal studies have indicated that blueberries may help aging memories, but until the recent study there had been little actual testing of blueberries’ effect on people. The Cincinnati study also indicated that blueberries are linked to lessening depression symptoms and lowering glucose levels.
Blueberries contain a compound called pterostilbene which may be effective in lowering cholesterol. A test conducted by Dr. Agnes M. Rimando, a research chemist for the Federal Department of Agriculture in Oxford, Mississippi, found that pterostilbene activates a cell receptor that participates in lowering cholesterol and other blood fats.
An additional study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry and performed by researchers from Florida State University and Oklahoma State University found that blueberries can even be instrumental in preventing osteoporosis. This study showed that nutrients in blueberries may be responsible for preventing bones from weakening after menopause. In this study, ovaries were removed from rats in order to simulate menopause. While the control group showed bone loss, the group given blueberries retained bone mass.
Ongoing research at Rutgers University has isolated other compounds from blueberries called proanthocyanidins which promote urinary tract health by preventing bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract walls.
Scientists recommend consuming the whole fruit rather than just drinking the juice or taking blueberry extract capsules.
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