Blueberries got to be known as memory food because there is emerging research showing that they improve memory in both animals and people. One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that daily consumption of 15 to 21 ounces of wild blueberry juice for 12 weeks improved various measures of memory in older adults who had begun to show some mild cognitive impairment.
More recently, a study of adults 68 and older with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming the equivalent of a daily cup of blueberries (in the form of freeze-dried blueberry powder) showed significant improvement in cognitive function. Another study looked at adults with normal cognitive function but with subjective memory complaints about forgetting things. Blueberries – in one form or another – improved things. In a Medscape article, lead researcher Robert Krikorian, PhD, said that the patients in the study “...had a better sense of well-being and were making fewer memory mistakes.”
The human studies, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. Back in 1999, James Joseph, PhD, and his team in the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (Tufts University) performed some experiments in which he fed blueberries (which he called “brain berries”) to aging lab animals. In his lab, the rats supplemented with blueberry extracts exhibited slowed memory loss and improved motor coordination.
Most researchers think that the memory-supporting effects of blueberries are due to the presence of anthocyanins, the plant pigments that give berries their rich color. Anthocyanins are powerful weapons against oxidative damage and inflammation, both processes that figure prominently in memory loss.