European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 1169–1180 | Cite as

Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

  • Marshall G. Miller
  • Derek A. Hamilton
  • James A. Joseph
  • Barbara Shukitt-Hale
Original Contribution



As populations shift to include a larger proportion of older adults, the necessity of research targeting older populations is becoming increasingly apparent. Dietary interventions with blueberry have been associated with positive outcomes in cell and rodent models of aging. We hypothesized that dietary blueberry would improve mobility and cognition among older adults.


In this study, 13 men and 24 women, between the ages of 60 and 75 years, were recruited into a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which they consumed either freeze-dried blueberry (24 g/day, equivalent to 1 cup of fresh blueberries) or a blueberry placebo for 90 days. Participants completed a battery of balance, gait, and cognitive tests at baseline and again at 45 and 90 days of intervention.


Significant supplement group by study visit interactions were observed on tests of executive function. Participants in the blueberry group showed significantly fewer repetition errors in the California Verbal Learning test (p = 0.031, ηp2 = 0.126) and reduced switch cost on a task-switching test (p = 0.033, ηp2 = 0.09) across study visits, relative to controls. However, no improvement in gait or balance was observed.


These findings show that the addition of easily achievable quantities of blueberry to the diets of older adults can improve some aspects of cognition.


Aging Blueberry Cognition Gait Postural Sway 



Attention network task


California verbal learning test, 2nd ed.


2′,7′-Dichlorofluorescin diacetate


Diet history questionnaire II


Digit span


Falls efficacy scale-international


Fall history questionnaire


Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Geriatric depression scale


Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging


Physical activity questionnaire


Profile of mood states


Computer/treadmill proficiency questionnaire


Trail-making test


Task-switching test


Virtual morris water maze


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

This study was approved by the Tufts Medical Center Institutional Review Board and was performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All study participants gave their informed consent prior to their participation in the study.

Conflict of interest

All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Tufts University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marshall G. Miller
    • 1
  • Derek A. Hamilton
    • 2
  • James A. Joseph
    • 1
  • Barbara Shukitt-Hale
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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