Blueberry Supplementation Effects on Neuronal and Pathological Biomarkers in Subjects at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Study

P M Doraiswamy, M G Miller, C A Hellegers, A Nwosu, J Choe, D M Murdoch


Background: There is a need to develop non-invasive practical lifestyle interventions for preventing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in people at risk, such as those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Blueberry consumption has been associated with reduced risk of dementia in some epidemiologic studies and with improvements in cognition in healthy aging adults. Blood-based biomarkers have emerged at the forefront of AD therapeutics research spurred by the development of reliable ultra-sensitive “single-molecule array” assays with 100-1000-fold greater sensitivity over traditional platforms.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of blueberry supplementation in MCI on six blood biomarkers: amyloid-beta 40 (Aβ40), amyloid-beta 42 (Aβ42), phosphorylated Tau181 (ptau181), neurofilament light (NfL), Glial Fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

Methods: This was a 12-week, open-label, pilot trial of 10 participants with MCI (mean age 80.2 years + 5.16). Subjects consumed 36 grams per day of lyophilized blueberry powder in a split dose consumed with breakfast and dinner. Baseline and endpoint venous blood was analyzed using an ultrasensitive SIMOA assay. Our aim was to test if blueberry supplementation would particularly impact p-tau181, NfL, and GFAP elevations associated with the neurodegenerative process.

Results: There were no statistically significant (p < 0.05) changes from baseline to endpoint for any of the biomarker values or in the ratios of Aβ42 / Aβ40 and ptau181/ Aβ42. Adverse effects were mild and transient; supplementation was relatively well tolerated with all subjects completing the study.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study to prospectively examine the effects of blueberry supplementation on a panel of blood biomarkers reflecting the neurodegenerative process. Our findings raise two possibilities – a potential stabilization of the neurodegenerative process or a lack of a direct and acute effect on beta-amyloid/tau/glial markers. A larger controlled study is warranted.

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