“Turning back the clock” isn’t just about cosmetic fixes any more – it is also about keeping our minds sharp.  To that end, we’ve sought to prevent mental decline through diet and a series of “super foods”.  Most of these super foods are fruits or vegetables, their colors due to anthocyanin pigments and their anti-aging effects often linked these anthocyanins.  The benefits of anthocyanins include “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions; enhanced neuronal signaling; increased protection of nerve cells against insults; and improved metabolic function,” explains Dr. Krikorian, Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati.  

Formerly heavy on hype and light on facts, anthocyanin-packed food stuffs are now a hot topic of research.  Krikorian and colleagues have been studying the benefits of blueberries, recently publishing their paper Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. To track the impact of blueberries’ anthocyanins on neurocognitive function, researchers enlisted a small group of older adults with early memory changes.  Participants displayed “mild, acquired memory decline”, as noted by researchers in the paper.  Krikorian team’s work is prevention rather than cure.  My sense is that advanced neurodegeneration as in mid- to late-stage Alzheimer's disease probably is irreversible,” said Dr. Krikorian.  “However, it may be that reversal or forestalling further decline is feasible in the very early stages of neurodegeneration so that progression to dementia can be averted,” continued Krikorian.  

To see if blueberries head-off some of the ill-effects of mental aging, researchers broke the older adults into two groups (study and control).  The study group got a blueberry boost to their diet, while the control group received a placebo.  The study set didn’t eat a mountain of blueberries, just 2 – 2 ½ cups of blueberry juice per day.  The control set drank a placebo beverage. 

After 3 months, researchers noted improved paired associate learning and word list recall, as well as reduced depressive symptoms and lower glucose levels.  Researchers tempered their findings while discussing their data. “One of the primary limitations of this study was the small sample size.”  Only 9 adults were used for this study.  Researchers go on to write “Although the significant effects and substantial effect sizes are encouraging, there is a clear need for larger trials.”  

Before you start experimenting on yourself to reap the positive mental effects of blueberries, know 2 cups per day isn’t a set amount.  We do not know what the minimum effective dose would be or whether daily consumption is necessary,” stated Dr. Krikorian.  Blueberry research is on-going and Dr. Krikorian stated two new studies will start in March.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>