Chronic and postprandial effect of blueberries on cognitive function, alertness, and mood in participants with metabolic syndrome – results from a six-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial

Peter J Curtis, Vera van der Velpen, Lindsey Berends, Amy Jennings, Laura Haag, Anne-Marie Minihane, Preeti Chandra, Colin D Kay, Eric B Rimm, Aedín Cassidy


Background: Anthocyanin and blueberry intakes positively associated with cognitive function in population-based studies and cognitive benefits in randomized controlled trials of adults with self-perceived or clinical cognitive dysfunction. To date, adults with metabolic syndrome (MetS) but without cognitive dysfunction are understudied.

Objectives: Cognitive function, mood, alertness, and sleep quality were assessed as secondary end points in MetS participants, postprandially (>24 h) and following 6-mo blueberry intake.

Methods: A double-blind, randomized controlled trial was conducted, assessing the primary effect of consuming freeze-dried blueberry powder, compared against an isocaloric placebo, on cardiometabolic health >6 mo and a 24 h postprandial period (at baseline). In this secondary analysis of the main study, data from those completing mood, alertness, cognition, and sleep assessments are presented (i.e., n = 115 in the 6 mo study, n = 33 in the postprandial study), using the following: 1) Bond-Lader self-rated scores, 2) electronic cognitive battery (i.e., testing attention, working memory, episodic memory, speed of memory retrieval, executive function, and picture recognition), and 3) the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire. Urinary and serum anthocyanin metabolites were quantified, and apolipoprotein E genotype status was determined.

Results: Postprandial self-rated calmness significantly improved after 1 cup of blueberries (P = 0.01; q = 0.04; with an 11.6% improvement compared with baseline between 0 and 24 h for the 1 cup group), but all other mood, sleep, and cognitive function parameters were unaffected after postprandial and 6-mo blueberries. Across the ½ and 1 cup groups, microbial metabolites of anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid (i.e., hydroxycinnamic acids, benzoic acids, phenylalanine derivatives, and hippuric acids) and catechin were associated with favorable chronic and postprandial memory, attention, executive function, and calmness.

Conclusions: Although self-rated calmness improved postprandially, and significant cognition-metabolite associations were identified, our data did not support strong cognitive, mood, alertness, or sleep quality improvements in MetS participants after blueberry intervention. This trial was registered at as NCT02035592.

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