Animal study lends credence to Blueberries and brain health

April 21, 2008

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School shows that supplementing the diet of rats with blueberries over a 12-week period caused a long-term improvement in brain power. The research team said that improvements in spatial working memory tasks emerged within three weeks and continued throughout the period of the study.
Three groups of adult male rats were used in the study. The first group was comprised of 'young' rats, aged 6 months at the start of the testing period, while the remaining rats were all 18 months old and were randomly assigned to either an 'aged' group or an 'aged + blueberry-supplemented' group. Those in the blueberry-supplemented group had powdered blueberries incorporated into the standard rat feed at a level of 2 per cent. The animals were tested in a maze apparatus. Animals in the 'young' group were found to perform "extremely well and very consistently", scoring an average of 90 per cent correct on each test day. The 'aged' animals were substantially impaired on this task compared to the young animals, with an average score of only 57 per cent correct. Similarly, the 'aged + blueberry-supplemented' group showed an age-related deficit in performance compared to the 'young' animals at baseline achieving only 60 per cent accuracy of choice before the start of blueberry supplementation. However, three weeks of blueberry supplementation produced a significant increase in performance in these animals, with accuracy rising to 83 per cent by testing in week three. This increase in performance accuracy was maintained throughout the remainder of the treatment period, said the researchers. The study is slated to be published shortly in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.