Are Blueberries Good For The Brain?

Are Blueberries Good For The Brain?
Are Blueberries Good For The Brain?

My parents love to take their grandkids out for special outings.  So what’s one of the most “brilliant” activities they can share this summer?

Picking blueberries! Why?

Multiple studies from the UK’s University of Reading researcher Adrian R. Whyte, M.Sc., have tested people of all ages while asking “Are blueberries good for the brain?”

And they’ve all connected eating the berries with incredible cognitive benefits. Let’s take a look!

Are Blueberries Good for the Brain of a Young Child?

Much of Whyte’s research focuses on young children.  For this study published in 2015, he and his team recruited students aged 8 to 10 years old to test how an anthocyanin-rich blueberry drink affected their cognitive skills.

(Our blueberry series this past week discussed how anthocyanins are blueberries’ most abundant flavonoids).

The researchers met with the students at school or home. The kids received either the blended blueberry beverage or a “fake” placebo beverage.

Two hours after consuming their drinks, the children completed a five-part cognitive test. Drinking the blueberry-based beverage led to significant improvements in the delayed recall of a previously learned list of words.”

In another study continuing his efforts to answer the question, “Are blueberries good for the brain?”  Whyte seperated out three groups of 7 to 10-year-olds. 

  • Group 1 received a drink containing 30 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder.
  • Group 2 received a drink containing 15 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder.
  • Group 3 received a drink containing no freeze-dried blueberry powder.
When tested after consuming their drinks, Groups 1 and 2 outperformed Group 3 in every area.
Are Blueberries Good For The Brain? - Brain food ripe for the picking! And their scores were dose-dependent! The 30-gram blueberry powder drinkers had the best test scores, followed by the 15-gram drinkers. The no-blueberry drinkers had the lowest scores.
Brain food ripe for the picking!And their scores were dose-dependent! The 30-gram blueberry powder drinkers had the best test scores, followed by the 15-gram drinkers. The no-blueberry drinkers had the lowest scores.

In 2017, the Whyte team ran a crossover trial involving children 7 to 10 years old. This time,  a single 30-gram freeze-dried blueberry powder drink noticeably improved their executive performance.

They administered the tests three hours after giving the children the wild blueberry-based drink or a placebo.

The most significant difference between the groups’ performances was their scores in the most demanding and complex tasks.

The researchers summed up their findings:

 “Performance in the WBB condition was found to be significantly faster in comparison to placebo, particularly on more cognitively demanding incongruent and high load trials.”

Fast forward to 2019 and 2020, when Whyte and company published more experiments
involving 7 to 10-year-old children.Their findings correlated drinking blueberry-based drinks with improved “fluid intelligence” as determined by the visual-spatial grid test.However, they also noted that the visuospatial test might not have been as “cognitively demanding” as previous tests. So this study’s blueberry drinkers scored lower than those in Whyte’s previous experiments.

Even so, their collective research answers the question, “Are blueberries good for the brain of a young child?” with a resounding “Yes!”

Blueberries give young children a brain boost, especially before complex and demanding tasks. But how about older children?

Will kids in their 20s still benefit from that trip to the blueberry patch with grandpa and grandma?

Are Blueberries Good for the Brain of a Young Adult?

Absolutely!

This Whyte study published in 2019 enrolled forty participants aged 20 to 30. Designed with a broader focus, it included a smoothie with equal amounts of:

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries

 and blackberries.

Half the participants received the mixed-berry smoothie, and the other a placebo drink. They then took three tests spaced two, four, and six hours later.

The young adults drinking the berry mix tested more successfully, especially when fatigued or taking the more demanding tests.

What about my age? Should I join my parents and kids on the blueberry-picking expedition?

Are Blueberries Good for the Brain of a Middle-Aged Adult? 

Once again, Whyte has an answer. His team selected 35 individuals 40 to 65 years old for a randomized, double-blind, crossover study.

After drinking a smoothie with 25 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder or a placebo, they took cognitive tests every two hours for the next eight hours.

As the day progressed, the placebo group did consecutively worse on their tests. However, the blueberry group’s test-taking stamina never failed!

Are Blueberries Good For The Brain? - For a summer afternoon's perfect family outing, try blueberry picking!
For a summer afternoon’s perfect family outing, try blueberry picking!

Whyte and his team noted they maintained their superior performance all day. They experienced  “fewer errors,” and  their “response times were faster.”
Are blueberries good for the brains of young children, young adults, and middle-aged adults? Yes, yes, and yes!

That’s all the evidence I need. Let’s pick some blueberries!

But… am I forgetting somebody?  How about grandpa and grandma? Are blueberries good for the brain of the 65-and-older group?

Tomorrow, I’ll answer that question. And then, I’m sure we’ll have to add a multi-generational blueberry-picking outing to the schedule!

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