Blueberries may help improve blood vessel function and cognitive ability in the elderly, according to a new study. Blood pressure was also lower in those who ate blueberries.
Aging increases the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as neurodegenerative diseases. One problem associated with aging is that the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, deteriorates and can lead to disease. Cognitive function can also decline.
A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to investigate how daily consumption of blueberries affects blood vessel function and cognitive performance in healthy older people. The researchers also wanted to explore the potential mechanisms behind these effects, so they measured cerebral blood flow in the brain and examined the gut microbiota, the billions of microorganisms that live in the digestive system.
The study involved 61 people between the ages of 65 and 80. All had good cognitive abilities and no illnesses. They were divided into two groups: one group received a freeze-dried wild blueberry powder and the other received a placebo powder. Before and after the study, an ultrasound scan measured how much the participants’ blood vessels dilated as blood flow increased, as well as their cognitive abilities.
Blueberries are high in polyphenols, which are organic pigments thought to have powerful antioxidant properties. Previous studies have shown that polyphenols from blueberries have a positive effect on memory function in the elderly.
After 12 weeks, the use of wild blueberry powder improved the ability of blood vessels to dilate when blood flow increased compared to the placebo group. Systolic blood pressure over 24 hours was also lower in the ‘blueberry group’.
Cognition also improved slightly in the blueberry group, which showed better results than the placebo group.
The researchers say the study provides valuable insight into the health benefits of consuming polyphenols from blueberries.