A US study, to be published this month in the Neurobiology of Ageing journal, has found that an increased intake of fresh blueberries could help to minimise the effects of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases associated with an ageing brain.

Alzheimer’s affects over 400,000 people in the UK, according to Canadian Wild Blueberries. The Alzheimer’s Society predicts that by 2050 the number of people living with the disease in the UK will have increased by 150%.

Supplier Canadian Wild Blueberries said the new research should hopefully encourage bakers to use more blueberries in their products.

The company said that in Boston, the Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing (HNRCA) found that animals fed the equivalent of one cup of blueberries a day over eight weeks were able to finish a complex maze 50% faster than those fed a berry- free diet.

They also found that the animals showed better co-ordination, balance, memory and a greater chance of brain cell regeneration.

The HNRCA also studied the effects on humans and found that people who ate a cup of blueberries a day performed 5% to 6% better on motor skills tests than the control group.

The antioxidant that appears responsible for this neuron protection, anthocyanin, also gives blueberries their colour. It is believed that anthocyanin helps to counter what are considered to be key contributory factors, such as the build-up of protein deposits in the brain.