If results from an animal study can be translated into humans, eating a diet rich in blueberries may reduce the severity of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or cognitive disorders relating to aging. What a wonderful food the blueberry is turning out to be based upon the last several years of research.
Appearing in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, these findings suggest a diet enriched in blueberry might attenuate degenerative processes due to oxidative or inflammatory stressors. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and currently affects over 13 million people worldwide. The direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer care is over $100 Billion in the US alone.
The researchers, from the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health), Tufts University, and Louisiana State University System, randomly assigned Young male rats a diet containing blueberry extract (two per cent) or a control diet for at least eight weeks. After this the rats were then randomly assigned a similar neuronal loss to that experienced by people suffering a neurodegenerative disease.
Behavioural studies were then performed and brain functioning was studied to determine any differences in neuronal loss.
The researchers reported that the rats that were fed a blueberry supplemented diet had enhanced behavioural performance as measured using performance in a 14-unit T-maze. These scientists also report that the blueberry-fed animals experienced significantly less brain cell loss, and had more viable brain cells following oxidative stress. The lead author, Dr. Duffy, reports that "a blueberry enriched diet provided significant protection against these decrements in performance."
While further research is required in the area, these results suggest that fruits rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, could play a role in the prevention and possible treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.