“These reductions might be expressed as improvements in motor and cognitive behavior,” they continue. Earlier research from this Tufts University team determined that extracts of blueberry, strawberry, and spinach all helped improve short-term memory in elderly rats. Only the blueberry extract, however, improved coordination and balance—which may offer protection against dangerous falls.
Another crucial factor in aging, inflammation in the central nervous system is linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Two new studies have investigated the anti-inflammatory potential of blueberry extract—with promising results. In one, Brazilian researchers found that a crude extract of this fruit (Vaccinium corymbosum), taken orally, displayed anti-inflammatory activity in animal models. Blueberry extract “consumption may be helpful for the treatment of inflammatory disorders,” suggest the scientists.
Another study focused on the effect of the berry’s extract on inflammatory response of microglia, cells in the brain associated with plaques and dying nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease. The results? “Blueberry polyphenols attenuate inflammatory responses of brain microglia” so they may have a positive effect on inflammatory conditions in the central nervous system.
Blueberry extract may also improve cell communication, especially among nervous system cells. In a recent trial, mice with genetic mutations resembling Alzheimer’s were given blueberry supplements from age 4 months until 12 months—when their cognitive performance was tested in a maze. The blueberry-fed mice completed the test as well as mice with no mutations and did significantly better than nontreated controls. Supplementation appeared to offset the damaging effects of plaques in the brain and enhance neuronal signaling—improving cognition, conclude scientists who reviewed the study. Additional research suggests that blueberries support urinary tract health. They may also help reduce cholesterol and lipid peroxidation (another heart disease risk factor). Available year-round in powerful extract form, this berry packs a healthy punch into a small package.