Among the many changes that come with aging, memory loss is one that is feared the most. But if we take steps early enough, it's far from inevitable - research shows that simply changing our diet can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and eating more blueberries is a delicious way of doing so.
"The science that supports the link between blueberries and improved brain health is really robust," says geriatric neurologist and dementia specialist Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, director of the Banner-Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona, one of the world's most prominent Alzheimer's disease research institutions.
As an example of some of the blueberry research that is being done, scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture research centre at Tufts University have been studying the beneficial effects of blueberries on brain function in animal models for over a decade. In a recent study, researchers there found that object memory loss that occurs normally with age cannot only be prevented, but actually reversed by feeding blueberries to older rats. Moreover, the improvement persisted for at least a month after they put the animals back on a standard diet.
In a study with nine human subjects, Robert Krikorian and his team at the University of Cincinnati found that older adults who were given blueberry juice scored higher on memory tests than those receiving a placebo. This study establishes a basis for human research of blueberry supplementation as a preventive intervention for cognitive aging. These researchers are currently conducting a similar study with older subjects who already show some signs of cognitive impairment.
"What we have to understand is that Alzheimer's actually starts about 25 years before we start noticing that we're forgetting things. So to prevent or delay the disease, we have to institute these dietary changes well before we see the symptoms," says Dr. Sabbagh.
To this end, Dr. Sabbagh has recently co-written The Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook with Chef Beau MacMillan, which outlines the foods that we should be adding to our diet to stimulate brain health. Along with blueberries, the list includes herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, rosemary and thyme; leafy green vegetables; tomatoes; onions and garlic; green tea; whole grains and legumes; and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut and sardines. The book includes information on the scientific link between diet and Alzheimer's prevention, along with delicious, brain-boosting recipes such as Blueberry-Banana Smoothie with Basil; Elemental Granola; and Kale, Blueberry and Pomegranate Salad.