Research this week claims they’re loaded with antioxidants that help brain function in people with mild cognitive impairment.

Whether they’re whizzed up in a smoothie or sprinkled on top of yogurt or porridge, the health boosting properties of blueberries are already well established.

Now researchers from the University of Cincinnati in the US have spotted an improvement in cognitive performance for study participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who ate blueberries. MCI is characterised by mild memory problems but is considered a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study involved 47 adults aged 68 and over and they were given either freeze-dried blueberry powder that was equivalent to a cup of fresh berries or a placebo powder.

Those who took the blueberries demonstrated improved memory and access to words and concepts, says lead researcher Dr Robert Krikorian, and during MRI scans, there was increased brain activity in those who took the blueberry powder.

It’s thought the benefits stem from antioxidant flavonoids within blueberries called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve cognition.

A second study carried out by the same team looked at whether there was any measurable improvement in those who did not have MCI, but had experienced some memory loss, and who took either blueberry powder, fish oil or a placebo. Krikorian claims ‘the results were not as robust as with the first study. Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or fish oil separately, but there was little improvement with memory.’

For more information on what foods have been linked with improved brain health or memory, click here.