blueberry improves memory and cognition in children and adults

Could a simple blueberry boost your child’s brain? If you want smarter kids, check this out.

Several studies have arrived at the surprising and exciting conclusion that blueberries can make older people smarter.

A small single-blind study of older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) found that blueberry juice (providing 428-598mg of anthocyanins) significantly improves memory and learning scores (J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:3996- 4000).

A study presented at the 2016 National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society found that older adults with MCI had 72% improvement in access to words and concepts and 13% improvement in visual-spatial memory when they were given freeze-dried blueberry powder equalling a cup of blueberries a day.

When healthy older people were given 30mL of blueberry concentrate (providing 387mg anthocyanidins) or a placebo for 12 weeks, the blueberry group had significant increases in brain activity and improvement in working memory (Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 2017;42(7):773-779).

A ninety day double-blind study of people between 60 and 75 found that 24g of blueberry powder a day significantly improved verbal and learning memory: they made fewer repetition errors and performed better on a task switching test (Eur J Nutr 2018;57(3):1169-1180).

Most recently, a 6 month study of adults between 65 and 80 found that 100mg of blueberry extract significantly improved episodic memory by the third month. Episodic memory is the part of memory that remembers your past experiences (Nutrients 2018 ;10(6)).

So, there’s a large body of evidence that blueberries can boost cognition both in healthy older adults and in older adults with MCI. What’s exciting about the new study is that it suggests that blueberries can also help young kids.

At least three earlier studies have suggested that a single dose of blueberry drink can improve cognition in kids. A study of 8-10 year old kids found mixed results, but showed that blueberries might enhance memory in kids (Nutrition 2015;31(3):531-4). A double-blind study of 7-10 year olds found that a single serving of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder significantly improved cognitive performance (Eur J Nutr 2016;55(6):2151-62). A double-blind study of children found that a single 30g dose of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder significantly enhanced executive function, especially in more cognitively demanding tasks (Food & Function 8(11):4129–4138).

This new single-blind study set out to confirm blueberry’s brain benefits for children. 54 healthy kids between the ages of 7 and 10 were given either a placebo or a single 200mL serving of wild blueberry drink containing 253mg of anthocyanins. The researchers wanted to see what effects blueberry would have on their memory and their executive function. Executive function includes things like working memory, reasoning, task flexibility and problem solving.

The effects were significant. Blueberry significantly improved their reaction time without increasing the number of errors they made. It also improved verbal memory.

The researchers concluded that consuming the equivalent of 240g, or 1.25 cups of blueberries improves cognition in kids.

Increasingly, then, a large body of evidence is accumulating that suggests that blueberries are good for memory and cognition in older adults with memory problems, older adults who are cognitively healthy and even young kids.

Eur J Nutr 2019;58:2911

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For much more on memory and cognition, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia.

For more on diet’s impact on your brain, see Linda’s The All New Vegetarian Passport Cookbook: a health book and cookbook all in one book!

The Natural Path is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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