This section is devoted to what we currently know about blueberries and what role blueberries may play in the battle against Huntington's Disease.
If you’ve heard that many people in the HD community are eating an unusual amount of blueberries you’re probably wondering why.
Our passion for blueberries started several years ago when the United States Department of Agriculture rated blueberries as a top leader in antioxidant activity. Since antioxidants are a “good thing” in keeping the brain in healthy condition, it was only natural that blueberries would be added to the arsenal of healthy foods that a person diagnosed with or at risk for HD should consume. In 1998 the Wild Blueberry Association of North American started pushing the notion that all people should add a half-cup of blueberries each day to their diet. Of course, it’s in their financial interest to push such an idea, but the concept isn’t bad.
In two separate experiments (one in 2002 and the other in 2003) researchers reported that laboratory rats fed a blueberry rich diet outperformed other rats in maze experiments. The rats were fed what amounts to, in human equivalent, about a cup of blueberries a day. The blueberries appeared to trigger the birth of new neurons (neurogenisis). Apparently, the specific type of anthocyanin provided by blueberries is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. The point to remember here is that not all anthocyanin’s are the same. So even though bilberries provide much more anthocyanin, it may not be the same type that promotes neurogenisis. Only blueberries, so far, have been shown to grow new neurons in rats.
To summarize: Blueberries deliver a powerful antioxidant dose that has been shown to keep the brain healthier. Blueberries may also encourage the brain to repair itself through the growth of new neurons. However, keep in mind that although this has been shown to be the case in rats, it has NOT been proven to do the same in humans. We can only be hopeful.
Whether you were diagnosed with HD, at risk for HD, or a caregiver for someone with HD we encourage you eat a healthy diet, especially one that keeps the heart and brain healthy. Adding blueberries to your diet is a good step toward that goal.
-- Steve Ireland