Food and Behaviour Research

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Wild Blueberry (Poly)phenols can Improve Vascular Function And Cognitive Performance In Healthy Older Males And Females: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial

Wood E, Hein S, Mesnage R, Fernandes F, Abhayaratne N, Xu Y, Zhang Z, Bell L, Williams C, Rodriguez-Mateos A (2023) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  Mar 25;S0002-9165(23)46300-9 doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.03.017 


Background: Evidence suggests that intake of blueberry (poly)phenols is associated with improvements in vascular function and cognitive performance. Whether these cognitive effects are linked to increases in cerebral and vascular blood flow or changes in the gut microbiota is currently unknown.

Methods: A double-blind, parallel randomized controlled trial was conducted in 61 healthy older individuals aged 65-80 y. Participants received either 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberry (WBB) powder (302 mg anthocyanins) or a matched placebo (0 mg anthocyanins). Endothelial function measured by flow-mediated dilation (FMD), cognitive function, arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), cerebral blood flow (CBF), gut microbiome and blood parameters were measured at baseline and 12 weeks following daily consumption. Plasma and urinary (poly)phenol metabolites were analyzed using micro-elution solid phase-extraction coupled with LC-MS.

Results: A significant increase in FMD and reduction in 24 h ambulatory systolic BP were found in the WBB group compared to placebo (0.86%; 95% CI 0.56, 1.17, p<0.001; -3.59 mmHg; 95% CI -6.95, -0.23, p=0.037; respectively). Enhanced immediate recall on the auditory verbal learning task, alongside better accuracy on a task-switch task were also found following WBB treatment compared to placebo (p<0.05). Total 24 h urinary (poly)phenol excretion increased significantly in the WBB group compared to placebo. No changes in CBF or gut microbiota composition were found.

Conclusions: Daily intake of WBB powder, equivalent to 178 g fresh weight, improves vascular and cognitive function, and decreases 24h ambulatory systolic BP in healthy older individuals. This suggests that WBB (poly)phenols may reduce future cardiovascular disease (CVD) disease risk in an older population, and may improve episodic memory processes and executive functioning in older adults at risk of cognitive decline.