Early results of a study by neuroscientist James Joseph, of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, indicate that blueberries may help reduce age-related brain damage that can lead to conditions like Alzheimer's Disease, reports the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA).
The research backs the current WBANA campaign, running with the slogan "The power of blue", to try to encourage consumers to eat blueberries on a daily basis.
Presenting his research at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, Joseph said that blueberries appear to reduce "aging-related damage in rat brains and can also prevent mental decline in mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's-like plaques in their brains."
According to Dr Joseph, the pigments in blue-purple foods like wild blueberries are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. In USDA studies, blueberries emerged as number-one in antioxidants compared with other fruits and vegetables. (see Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 44:701-705; 3426-3431, 1996; 46:2686-2693, 1998.) Antioxidants protect against oxidative cell damage that can lead to conditions like Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease - conditions also linked with chronic inflammation.
Blueberries have also been linked with other health benefits including urinary tract health and vision health.
WBANA (a trade association of blueberry growers) executive director John Sauve said: "Eating a colourful variety of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, including wild blueberries, should be a daily practice."
The importance of eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables every day is also being promoted by a number of organisations involved in helping Americans maintain healthy lifestyles. Produce for Better Health Foundation president Elizabeth Pivonka said:"The national 5 A Day programme will be turning its attention to colour as a quick and easy way to help consumers think about variety, which is central to good nutrition… coloured fruits and vegetables provide the beneficial vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals needed to stay healthy and fit."