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Americas: Blueberries may improve attention in children

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Primary school children could show better attention by consuming flavonoid-rich blueberries, following a study conducted by the University of Reading.

In a paper published in Food & Function, a group of 7-10 year olds who consumed a drink containing wild blueberries or a matched placebo and were tested on their speed and accuracy in completing an executive task function on a computer.

The double blind trial found that the children who consumed the flavonoid-rich blueberry drink had 9% quicker reaction times on the test without any sacrifice of accuracy.

In particular, the effect was more noticeable as the tests got harder.

“This is the first time that we have seen the positive impact that flavonoids can have on the executive function of children,” said Professor Claire Williams, a neuroscience professor at the university.

“We designed this double blind trial especially to test how flavonoids would impact on attention in young people as it’s an area of cognitive performance that hasn’t been measured before.”

“We used wild blueberries as they are rich in flavonoids, which are compounds found naturally in foods such as fruits and their juices, vegetables and tea.”

“They have been associated with a range of health benefits including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and our latest findings continue to show that there is a beneficial cognitive effect of consuming fruit and vegetables, tea, coffee and even dark chocolate which all contain flavonoids.”

The children were then asked to pay attention to an array of arrows shown on a PC screen and press a key corresponding to the direction that the central arrow was facing.

The task was repeated over a number of trials, where cognitive demand was manipulated by varying how quickly the arrows appeared, whether there were additional arrows appearing either side of the central arrow, and whether the flanking arrows were pointing in the same/different direction as the central arrow.

The Wild Blueberry Association of North America provided a freeze-dried powder made from wild blueberries which was used in the study but did not provide any additional financial support and did not play a role in the design of the study.

Previous Reading research has shown that consuming wild blueberries can improve mood in children and young people, simple memory recall in primary school children, and that other flavonoid rich drinks such as orange juice, can also improve memory and concentration.