Supplementing the diet with blueberries for one month may slow and even reverse the decline in mental function associated with age, suggest results of a new study with lab rats.

Cognitive performance declines naturally with age, but new results published in Nutrition indicate that one month's supplementation of elderly rats with blueberries was associated with an improvement in the memory scores, as measured in a maze.

In addition, data showed that two months of consuming the bluer-enriched diet was associated with a prolongation of the benefits after the diet was stopped, and the performance of the aging rats was similar to that of younger rats.

“Therefore, 1-, 2-, and 4-months diets substantially reversed the age-related object memory impairment found in 19-month-old rats,” wrote researchers from the University of Houston and Tufts University U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

“This illustrates a surprisingly prompt and powerful effect of an antioxidant dietary intervention,” they added.

The berries are booming

Blueberry consumption has previously been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, and the beneficial effects of the blueberries are thought to be linked to their flavonoid content - in particular anthocyanins and flavanols. The exact way in which flavonoids affect the brain are unknown, but they have previously been shown to cross the blood brain barrier after dietary intake.

It is believed that they may exert their effects on learning and memory by enhancing existing neuronal connections, improving cellular communications and stimulating neuronal regeneration.