Flavonoids found in wild blueberries may benefit kids’ brains, studies suggest

Colleen Cross
November 21, 2017
Written by
Upper Kingsclear, N.B. – A new study suggests consuming a flavonoid-rich wild blueberry beverage may enhance the mental skills that help children manage time, pay attention and get things done.

The study, led by Claire Williams and Adrian Whyte from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading in England and published in Food & Function, explores the impact of flavonoid consumption on children’s executive function. It adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests flavonoids can enhance cognitive function following acute and chronic interventions in humans and animals.

The research demonstrates for the first time significantly faster response times on an executive function task in children who consumed a beverage containing wild blueberries, said a news release from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, an association of growers and processors of wild blueberries from Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Maine.

“We have known for some time that flavonoids promote healthy brain function in adults and have also found that acute flavonoid intervention via a wild blueberry beverage has a positive effect on episodic memory in children,” said Williams, a leading researcher on the effects of flavonoids in children, in the release.

“This is the first study to examine the effects of a flavonoid intervention on an executive function task where we increase or decrease the cognitive demand, making the task easier or more difficult to perform across different trials,” she said. Executive function is a set of mental skills, controlled by frontal lobe area of the brain, that helps us manage time, pay attention, and get things done.

Children between seven and 10 years of age could perform executive function tasks significantly faster after consuming a wild blueberry beverage containing 30 grams of flavonoid-rich wild blueberry powder (equal to about 1 3⁄4 cup of frozen wild blueberries).

“This new study (“The effect of cognitive demand on performance of an executive function task following wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year old children”) demonstrates that food intake affects kids’ brains and mental performance, and suggests that it’s not just adults – but also children– who can benefit cognitively from consuming flavonoid-rich foods like wild blueberries,” said Kit Broihier, nutrition advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

“A practical takeaway here is that providing children with meals and snacks that incorporate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, such as wild blueberries, is a way to help kids consume a variety of beneficial flavonoids,” Broihier said.

OTHER FLAVONOID/BRAIN STUDIES
Williams has published numerous studies examining the relationship of flavonoids and human brain health.

In 2017, she published “Effects of acute blueberry flavonoids on mood in children and young adults.”

In 2016: “The effects of flavanone-rich citrus juice on cognitive function and cerebral blood flow: an acute, randomized, placebo controlled crossover trial in healthy young adults.”

Also in 2016: “High-flavonoid intake induces cognitive improvements linked to changes in plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor: two randomized controlled trials” was published in Nutrition and Healthy Ageing.

In 2015: “Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation on 7 – 10-year-old children” was published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

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