Why Violet Beauregarde Will Never Forget Turning into a Blueberry

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In the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka invents a gum that consists of a three course meal including blueberry pie for dessert. Because the gum is not yet ready for consumption, Willy Wonka forbids Violet Beauregarde from trying it. However, Violet chews the gum anyway and, consequently, turns into a giant blueberry. Oompa Loompa’s then roll Violet to the juicing room to remove the blueberry juice from her. This experience might not have been all bad for Violet after all.

According to a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, blueberries may improve memory in humans. This is the first study on humans to show blueberries’ beneficial effect on memory. Previous studies have only been conducted on laboratory animals. Nine participants, with an average age of 76 who were experiencing memory decline, drank 2 – 2 ½ cups of blueberry juice daily. Seven other participants drank grape juice.

After twelve weeks, the blueberry juice guzzlers experienced improved associative learning and word list recall compared to those drinking the grape juice placebo. This study proposes that anthocyanins, which are found in blueberries, could combat neurodegeneration because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

While these results are encouraging, investing in the blueberry market may be premature.  The researchers from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center acknowledge that their study has some limitations.  Their sample size is small, and they do not have a true control for blueberry juice because the grape juice placebo does not match the glucose content of blueberry juice.

Interestingly, this research was partially funded by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, which was likely pleased with the conclusions of this study.  Regardless, I hope my recent binge on blueberry juice helps for my upcoming midterms.

- blog authored by Kelsie Eichel

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