Blueberries became the biggest superfood a few years ago and people were consuming them like crazy, but did they know why? They have many benefits to them, but I am going to focus in on one in today’s blog – Memory and Focus.
Neuronal Growth Factor (NGF) – Neurons are cells in our nervous system that function to process and transmit information in our brain. An adult brain contains about a 100 billion neurons, which branch out to more than 100 trillion points. This network in our brain is what is responsible for forming the basis of our memories, thoughts and feelings. So without neurons we really wouldn’t be able to do much. They make up one of the core components of our brain.
It was once believed that we were born with all the neurons we were ever going to have, meaning we had all the branches we were ever going to have. New research has shown that blueberries can help increase the activity of a growth factor called neuronal growth factor in our brains.
Essentially NGF helps neurons grow, and when they grow they can branch out towards each other making it easier for the neurons to communicate. Just imagine if your friend was standing on the other side of the room from you at a party and you really needed to tell her something secretive. You would need to exert energy to either walk over to her, or to somehow communicate your message to her without other people hearing. Whereas if she was standing beside you, you could just talk to her and not need to exert any more energy than is actually needed. This is the same the neurons developing more branches to communicate with one another.
Reversing Age Related Deficits in Memory – Researchers working at the School of Food and Biosciences and Psychology in Reading and the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter supplemented a regular diet with blueberries over a 12-week period and found that the candidates showed improvements in their spatial working memory within 3 weeks and this improvement continued throughout the study. Spatial working memory related to neuroscience is the part of our memory responsible for recording information about our environment and our spatial orientation.
Just imagine how easy it is for you to travel around the neighborhood you grew up in. This is your spatial memory at work. It is recalling all the familiarities about your surroundings to help you navigate around. Blueberries, like other phytochemical-rich foods, are high in flavonoids, which gives them their antioxidant effects.
Blueberries in particular are high in anthocyanins and flavonols which cross the blood brain barrier after dietary intake. Research is being done by Dr. Jeremy Spencer, a lecturer in Molecular Nutrition at the University of Reading suggesting that flavonoid compounds have some kind of effect of memory. “The research team was able to show that the ability of flavonoids to induce memory improvements are mediated by the activation of signalling proteins via specific pathway in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory”
I’m sure many of us have been told to eat our fruits and vegetables, but we aren’t always told what is the optimal amount to consume. Blueberries can be consumed via blueberry extract, frozen or fresh blueberries, or isolated anthocyanins. The Optimal Doses are as follows:
- Blueberry Extract – Approx. 5.5 – 11g daily
- Fresh Berries – Approx. 60 – 120g daily
- Isolated Anthocyanin Supplementation – Approx. 500 – 1,000mg
With the recommend amounts above, the higher end is usually more effective, and should be consumed daily. (Please start with the lower amounts in order to test your tolerance, the dose will vary from one person to another)
Blueberries are a heat sensitive fruit, therefore blueberries and blueberry supplements should be refrigerated. However, blanching blueberries has been shown to increase anthocyanin bioavailability, but exposing them to too much heat can degrade the anthocyanin content, so be careful. To blanch blueberries plunge them into boiling water for 25-30 seconds.