Summary: According to a new study, middle-aged people who eat blueberries every day may have a reduced risk of developing dementia.
Source: University of Cincinnati
The old adage says an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but new research from the University of Cincinnati shows the potential health benefits of a different fruit.
Researchers led by Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., of UC, have found that adding blueberries to the daily diet of certain middle-aged populations may reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.
The results were recently published in the journal Nutrients.
Krikorian said his team has been conducting research for several years on the benefits of berries for people at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
While not entirely different from other berries and plants like red cabbage, Krikorian said blueberries have a particularly high level of micronutrients and antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help give blueberries their namesake color and also help defend plants against excessive exposure to radiation, infectious agents and other threats, Krikorian said.
These same properties that help blueberries survive also provide benefits to humans, Krikorian said, such as reducing inflammation, improving metabolic function and improving energy production in cells.
Previous berry studies by Krikorian have focused on older populations, but with this research, the team wanted to study middle-aged people to focus on dementia prevention and risk reduction.
Krikorian explained that about 50% of individuals in the United States develop insulin resistance, commonly called prediabetes, around middle age. Prediabetes has been shown to be a factor in chronic disease, he said.
“We had seen cognitive benefits with blueberries in previous studies on older people and thought they might be effective in younger people with insulin resistance,” said Krikorian, professor emeritus and director of the psychology division of the department of psychiatry and medicine at the UC College of Medicine. Behavioral neuroscience.
“Alzheimer’s disease, like all chronic diseases of aging, develops over a period of years beginning in midlife.”
Study details and results
The researchers recruited 33 Cincinnati-area patients between the ages of 50 and 65 who were overweight, prediabetic, and had noticed a slight decline in memory with aging. Krikorian said this population has an increased risk of late-life dementia and other common conditions.
Over a 12-week period, patients were instructed to abstain from all consumption of soft fruits, except for one daily sachet of the powdered supplement to be mixed with water and consumed at breakfast. lunch or dinner. Half of the participants received powders containing the equivalent of half a cup of whole blueberries, while the other half received a placebo.
Participants also received tests measuring certain cognitive abilities that decline in aging and late-onset dementia patients, such as executive functions like working memory, mental flexibility and self-control.
Krikorian said those in the blueberry-treated group showed improvement in cognitive tasks that depend on executive control.
“This resulted in a reduction of superfluous information interference during learning and memory,” Krikorian explained.
Patients in the blueberry group also had lower fasting insulin levels, meaning participants had improved metabolic function and were able to more easily burn fat for energy.
Krikorian said the blueberry group exhibited a slight additional degree of higher mitochondrial uncoupling, a cellular process that has been associated with greater longevity and reduced oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to symptoms like fatigue and memory loss.
“This latest finding was exploratory but points to an interesting potential mechanism for blueberry benefits,” he said.
Going forward, Krikorian said he wants to better understand the exact mechanisms of blueberries that help improve cognitive performance and metabolic function. But the main takeaway from the current study is that regular blueberry supplementation in middle-aged risk diets may reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.
“The sample size is an obvious limitation of the study, so it will be important to replicate these results, especially by other researchers,” Krikorian said. “In the meantime, it may be a good idea to eat blueberries regularly.”
About this diet and dementia research news
Author: Press office
Source: University of Cincinnati
Contact: Press Office – University of Cincinnati
Picture: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“Blueberry Supplementation in Midlife for Dementia Risk Reduction” by Robert Krikorian et al. Nutrients
Blueberry supplementation in midlife for dementia risk reduction
Late-life dementia usually develops over a period of years starting in midlife. The prevalence of metabolic disturbances also accelerates in middle age and is an important risk factor for dementia.
Preliminary studies indicate that blueberry supplementation may improve cognitive performance and influence metabolism and brain function and therefore may play a role in early intervention to prevent neurodegeneration. In a randomized controlled trial, we investigated the effects of daily blueberry supplementation in a middle-aged sample of insulin-resistant participants at high risk for future dementia.
We recruited overweight men and women, aged 50-65, with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) and performed pre- and post-intervention assessments of cognition and metabolism and exploratory measures of mitochondrial function. peripheral.
We observed improved performance for the blueberry group on measures of lexical access, p = 0.003, and memory interference, p = 0.04, and blueberry-treated participants reported reduced difficulty encoding memory in activities of daily living, p = 0.03.
The blueberry-treated group also showed correction of peripheral hyperinsulinemia, p = 0.04, and a modest trend towards increased mitochondrial uncoupling, p = 0.11. Cognitive results indicated improved executive ability in this middle-aged sample. Additionally, changes in metabolic and bioenergetic measures implicate potential mechanistic factors associated with the actions of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins.
The demonstration of these benefits in middle-aged individuals with insulin resistance and SCD suggests that continued blueberry supplementation may help protect against cognitive decline when implemented early in those at risk.