Blueberries and Brain Health

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation
If you look for news about brain health, you have no doubt seen lots of coverage this week of a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggesting great cognitive benefits from drinking wild blueberry juice.

There are solid theoretical grounds to support this finding but it may be a little early to celebrate the end of dementia. While I always root for these studies to be confirmed through more rigorous methods, I will keep my expectations low on this one for the following reasons.

First of all, many studies have been initiated on the theoretical groundwork that foods rich in anti-oxidants might foster brain health and could confer improved cognitive capabilities. To date, none of these studies has been verified positive in that regard.

Secondly, this latest study was very small with only 18 research subjects enrolled; nine of whom drank blueberry juice and nine of whom were given a placebo drink.

And finally, the results are reported in a slightly misleading way. The statistically significantly improvement on two tasks (paired associate learning and list recall) was derived by comparing an initial score for each subject to their scores after 12 weeks of "therapy" (consuming either blueberry juice or a placebo drink believed to be blueberry juice). While both groups improved over the 12 weeks, there was not a significant difference between the group who got the blueberry juice and the group who got placebo. In this regard, we may find that all of the "gains" reported in this small test were due to the placebo effect.


  1. Thank you for providing in depth comments relating statistical significance between the juice drinkers and non, and the fact that the number of participants was small - these are things that one doesn't hear with the results posted by the media!

  2. Is there any true statistical significance here?

  3. The nine subjects who drank blueberry juice performed "statistically significantly" better on the two cognitive tasks at week 12 than they had performed originally. What is unknown is whether or not the blueberry juice played a role in that measured improvement. This is the type of result that is commonly explained by the placebo effect and, given that the separation between the treatment group (drank blueberry juice) and the control group (drank a placebo) was much less clear, the findings must be interpreted with caution. I think there is room for optimism but not exuberance.

  4. blueberries are a good antioxident. Who ever thought they might make you smarter?