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

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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, ηp 2 = 0.126) and reduced switch cost on a task-switching test (p = 0.033, ηp 2 = 0.09) across study visits, relative to controls. However, no improvement in gait or balance was observed.

Conclusions

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

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Abbreviations

ANT:

Attention network task

CVLT-II:

California verbal learning test, 2nd ed.

DCF:

2′,7′-Dichlorofluorescin diacetate

DHQ-II:

Diet history questionnaire II

DS:

Digit span

FES-I:

Falls efficacy scale-international

FH:

Fall history questionnaire

fMRI:

Functional magnetic resonance imaging

GDS:

Geriatric depression scale

HNRCA:

Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging

PAQ:

Physical activity questionnaire

POMS:

Profile of mood states

PROF:

Computer/treadmill proficiency questionnaire

TMT:

Trail-making test

TST:

Task-switching test

vMWM:

Virtual morris water maze

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Barbara Shukitt-Hale.

Ethics declarations

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.

Funding

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

Additional information

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01888848.

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Miller, M.G., Hamilton, D.A., Joseph, J.A. et al. Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr 57, 1169–1180 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-017-1400-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-017-1400-8

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Blueberry
  • Cognition
  • Gait
  • Postural Sway