A blueberry smoothie at breakfast can stop your powers of concentration waning in the afternoon – and even help fight dementia in the long term, new research suggests. Scientists have found that the food can increase your attention span in the short term and can maintain a healthy mind in the long term.
They found that just one 200g blueberry smoothie was enough to increase powers of concentration by as much as 20 per cent over the day.
Regular consumption of the fruit could lead to a rewiring of a part of the brain that is linked to memory.
The findings of the study, reported at the British Science Festival, add to the growing reputation of blueberries as the super-food of super-foods.
The fruit, which is an anti-oxidant, has already been linked to lower heart disease and cancer rates as well as anti-ageing.
Antioxidants remove free radicals – chemicals that have the potential to cause damage to cells and tissues in the body.
But Dr Jeremy Spencer, a molecular nutritionist at the University of Reading who carried out the latest study, believes its affect on the mind is less to do with its antioxidant properties and more to do with its ability to increase the blood flow to your brain.
Special chemicals in the fruit, known as flavonoids, open up blood vessels, allowing increased blood flow and at the same time a reduction of blood pressure.
The effect is improved cognitive performance in the short term, and a healthier brain in the long term.
“I think that the findings were impressive and have the potential in the long term to lead to cognitive improvement,” he said.
Dr Spencer and his team tested the fruit’s powers on a group of 40 adults made up of students aged between 18 and 30.
The group was given a set diet, which included a blueberry smoothie, and then asked to do a number of exercises to test their powers of concentration throughout the day.
The tests included navigating through computer generated maze, IQ assessments and reacting to words flashing on a screen.
A month later they were brought back and given the same diet and tests but without the smoothie.
Researchers found that while there was no change in the cognitive powers between the two occasions for the first few hours, towards the end of the day the smoothie stopped the concentration flagging, while without it dropped by up to 20 per cent.
“After one hour there was little difference in the attention tests but after five hours people who did not have the smoothie’s performance dropped by 15 to 20 per cent,” said Dr Spencer.
The results were repeated with another group of 40 volunteers, this time pensioners.
He said that he was now concentrating on the long term effects of eating blueberries and particularly their effect on the hippocampus, the part of the brain related to memory.
He believes that flavonoid rich foods, which also include chocolate, spinach and some fruit juices, can re-structure the brain and ward off memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.
“I think that is where the real benefit could come from,” he said.