'Unexplored': Could haskap berries improve blood pressure and memory in older adults?

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Haskap berries are elongated and covered in a dark blue to purple skin. Image © Getty Images
Haskap berries are elongated and covered in a dark blue to purple skin. Image © Getty Images
Extracts from dark blue haskap berries may improve episodic memory and blood pressure in older adults, suggest results from a small pilot study from Canada.

Preliminary data published in the European Journal of Nutrition​ indicated that acute supplementation with an anthocyanin-rich haskap berry extract led to significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure and heart rates.

In addition, improvements in word recognition scores and episodic memory task performance were reported by Lynne Bell and Claire Williams from the University of Reading in England.

“Haskap berries may, therefore, be beneficial in ameliorating age-related memory deficits through improved vascular and metabolic health,” ​wrote Bell and Williams. “As an extension to this work, studies investigating both the immediate postprandial and longer term cognitive benefits of whole haskap berries are recommended.”

Haskap berries

Native to low-lying wet areas and mountains of Siberia and northeastern Asia, Haskap (Lonicera caerulea​ L.) is also now being grown in Canada. Indeed, the new study was funded by Lahave Natural Farms/Haskapa in Nova Scotia​.

The berries are a rich source of anthocyanins, and contain about 1,080 mg of anthocyanins per 100 g fresh weight of the fruit. In comparison, the anthocyanin content of blueberries is 150 mg per 100 grams, while blackberries conatin about 100 mg per 100 grams.

While there berries could represent an “as yet, unexplored dietary intervention for neurocognitive health in older adults”​, no study had been performed to examine the berries’ potential.

The new study included 20 older adults aged between 62 and 81, and used three different doses of haskap berry extracts: 100 mg, 200 mg, and 400 mg anthocyanins. A sugar-matched placebo was also used for comparison.

Benefits

Results showed that, compared to the placebo, the highest dose (400 mg) produced the greatest reductions in both diastolic blood pressure (and average 2.66 mmHg reduction) and heart rate (an average 2.4 beats per minute reduction).

Furthermore, both 200 mg and 400 mg doses produced improvements in word recall, while the highest dose was also associated with improvements in word recognition scores and episodic memory.

On the other hand, no significant differences between the groups were observed for mood, working memory and executive function, said Bell and Williams.

“The findings provide evidence for improvements in episodic memory and blood pressure following acute supplementation with haskap berry extract, with higher doses appearing most effective,”​ they wrote.

“The cognitive findings concur with previous literature that suggests episodic memory effects, and not executive function effects, are most prevalent in older adults following anthocyanin-rich berry supplementation.

“The blood pressure outcome is consistent with a vasodilatory mechanism of action.”

Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1877-9
“A pilot dose–response study of the acute effects of haskap berry extract (​Lonicera caerulea L.) on cognition, mood, and blood pressure in older adults”
Authors: L. Bell & C.M. Williams

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