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Could blueberries cut dementia risk?

15 March 2016 07:55

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants

Blueberries may provide a key to staving off Alzheimer's in older people, new studies carried out by US scientists suggest.

Scientists are now planning to follow up their small scale studies by testing the so-called super-fruit's affect on younger patients, some of whom have a raised risk of developing dementia.

One of the studies has seen researchers at the University of Cincinnati administering a powdered form of blueberries to a group of nearly 50 people aged in their late sixties or above.

The subjects were already suffering from a mild cognitive impairment, something that increases the chances of developing Alzheimer's, a condition that can be covered among holidaymakers by a specialist Alzheimer's travel insurance policy.

'Blueberries triggered memory improvement'

Those who consumed the blueberry powder saw their thinking performance improve, an affect that was not replicated among volunteers who were given an inert placebo powder.

According to the researchers, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans reveal greater brain activity among those who were given the blueberry powder.

The research has been led by Dr Robert Krikorian. He says taking the blueberry powder went hand in hand with better brain functions and improved cognitive performance and memory.

A second study involved the blueberry powder, fish oil or a placebo being used to treat more than 90 people aged between 62 and 80. The volunteers were experiencing memory loss but had not suffered a measurable cognitive decline.

Neither the blueberry extract nor the fish oil were found to have a significant effect on the subjects' memory but the treatments both resulted in thinking improvements, the researchers report.

Younger volunteers to test blueberries

The team says those involved in the second study may have had less severe issues than those who took part in the first one, perhaps explaining the differing findings on memory.

Researchers now plan to test the blueberry powder on a group of volunteers aged between 50 and 65. They will include those who are obese or have high cholesterol or blood pressure and are so considered to have a higher than normal chance of developing Alzheimer's.

Blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants that are believed to also cut people's chances of developing heart disease and the cell damage that is linked to cancer.