Blueberry Extracts Boost Brain Function
By Rosalie Marion
Bliss August 8, 2007
A single dietary change has allowed laboratory animals with a genetic
tendency toward Alzheimer's disease to perform as well as healthy peers in maze
tests. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists noted the diet-induced
behavioral differences in the Alzheimer's-prone animals after feeding them
blueberry extracts from the equivalent of their early adulthood to early middle
Joseph heads the
Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA
Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. He
and coauthors reported the findings in Nutritional
Neuroscience. ARS is the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
The researchers studied mice that carried a genetic mutation for
promoting increased amounts of amyloid beta in the brain. This protein
molecule, or fragment, builds up as the telltale neuritic plaque, or "hardening
of the brain," seen in Alzheimer's disease.
For the study, beginning with rats at four months of agewhich is
the equivalent of early adulthood in humanshalf of the brain-plaqued
group was fed a diet that included blueberry extract for eight months. The
other half was fed standard rat chow, as was a control group of mice that
didn't carry the amyloid-plaque mutation.
When the rats reached 12 months of agethe equivalent of early
middle-age in humansall groups were tested for their performance in a
maze. The brain-plaqued mice that were fed the blueberry extract performed as
well as the healthy control mice, and they performed much better than their
brain-plaqued peers fed standard chow.
The team found increased activity of a family of enzymes, called
kinases, in the brains of the amyloid-plaqued mice that were fed blueberry
extract. Two of the kinases found, ERK and PKC, are important in mediating
cognitive function, such as conversion of short-term to long-term memory.
about this research in the August 2007 issue of Agricultural Research