In addition to being delicious, blueberries could improve age-related memory, balance and coordination problems.

In a recent National Institute on Aging (NIA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture funded study, rats fed a blueberry-extract diet for 8 weeks experienced fewer age-related motor changes than rats on a regular diet or those receiving strawberry or spinach extracts. Researches noticed a marked reversal of age-related impairments within a short period. The groups fed fruit and vegetable extracts scored better on memory tests and showed signs of the key antioxidant Vitamin E in their brains.

Blueberries are rich in natural antioxidants, which may protect against oxidative stress. As cells turn oxygen into energy, they release free radicals that when produced in normal quantities remove toxins. But in excess, the free radicals damage tissues and cells. Scientists consider this oxidative stress to be a factor in aging and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers concluded that blueberry and strawberry extract offered brain tissue the best protection from oxidative stress.

Fruits, yellow and orange vegetables, and whole grains contain natural antioxidants.

In addition to antioxidant activity, phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables help nutrients and chemical signals enter and exit cells, decreasing tissue inflammation.

Researchers will investigate how long the blueberry-induced reversal of age-related impairments lasts and if the results hold true for people. Ongoing NIA-funded clinical trials are comparing cognitive declines in women taking over-the-counter antioxidants with those who do not.