The description Superfood is ubiquitous these days with a new one being written about every week.
It appears that its now the turn of blueberries (again) after new research from the University of Cincinnati has revealed has revealed that this dark blue fruit has a protective role against Alzheimers Disease.
A small study of both men and women who had been diagnosed with ‘mild cognitive impairment’ – memory lapses that have the potential to develop into full-blown dementia – were given a blueberry powder supplement that contained the equivalent of a small teacupful of fresh fruit.
The volunteers were put through a series of mental tests at the beginning and end of the study, with a focus on memory and thinking skills that are affected by dementia.
Dr Krikorian said: ‘There was a significant improvement in cognitive function in those who had the blueberry powder, compared with those who took the placebo.’
Brain scans showed the brain was more active in those who had taken the blueberry powder which the researchers believe are due to the the benefits of anthocyanins, the plant chemicals that give the berries their deep blue/purple colour
It is believed they act on the brain by boosting blood flow, cutting inflammation, and enhancing the passage of information between cells. The chemicals may also boost the defence mechanism of cells.
In the absence of medications that can prevent or cure Alzheimer’s or dementia it would appear to be beneficial for at risk individuals to modify their diets to include these important plant compounds.
Dr Krikorian said: ‘I believe that berry supplementation and, in particular, blueberry supplementation, may reduce the risk for late-life cognitive decline. The minimum dose is not clear but data suggest that taking blueberries several times a week should be beneficial.
Other foods containing good amounts of anthocyanins include the Vaccinium species, such as blueberry, cranberry, and bilberry; Rubus berries, including raspberry and blackberry; blackcurrant and redcurrant, cherry, the skin of dark purple aubergines, black rice, black grapes and red cabbage.
Anthocyanins have also been shown to be beneficial to eye health by enhancing visual acuity; for cancer by reducing cancer cell proliferation and inhibiting tumour formation; heart protective by reducing inflammation, enhancing capillary strength and permeability and inhibiting platelet formation.
So it seems that dark blue fruits and veg have earned their description of Superfoods and we would all benefit by ensuring we include them in our diets.