New Wild Blueberry Study Indicates Potential Mood-boosting Effect In Young Adults and Children

March 1, 2017

Portland, ME.  – A new British study published in Nutrients is the first study to show that consuming wild blueberries, a flavonoid-rich food, may significantly boost mood in both young adults and children. The study, led by Professor Claire Williams from the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, is unique among the growing body of research exploring the association between nutrition and mental health. To read the full study visit here.

According to Professor Williams, “We have known for some time that flavonoids promote healthy brain function in adults. However, to our knowledge, this is the first, fully-controlled, double-blind research study to examine the effects of flavonoids on mood in young people.”

The study, “Effects of Acute Blueberry Flavonoids on Mood in Children and Young Adults,” was conducted in two different populations. Group one consisted of 21 young adults ages 18-21, and group two included 50 children ages 7 to 10. Participants in both groups consumed either a flavonoid-rich wild blueberry beverage or a placebo and were asked to rate their mood on a well-validated Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS), before and two hours after consumption of the drink. In both trials, participants recorded a significant increase in positive mood after drinking the wild blueberry drink.

“Wild blueberries are rich in flavonoids, 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 cardiovascular disease prevention, and it is exciting to see their impact on mood in a highly-novel experiment,” Williams explained. “This was a preliminary trial and now needs replication and testing in other populations to understand the link between flavonoid interventions and improved positive mood.”

The flavonoid-rich wild blueberry drink was prepared by mixing 30 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder (equivalent to about 1 ¾ cup of frozen wild blueberries) with orange drink and water, creating a beverage that provided 253mg of anthocyanins from the wild blueberries. Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid that is highly-concentrated in the deep blue pigments of wild blueberries. The placebo and the wild blueberry beverage were matched for levels of glucose and fructose.

“Sustained low mood is a common problem at all ages and is a core feature of depression,” said Shirley Reynolds, Professor of Evidence Based Psychological Therapies & Director of the Charlie Waller Institute at School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading and study co-author. “This research is important because it suggests that including flavonoids as part of a healthy, mixed diet might help prevent low mood and depression. Because flavonoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, this is a simple way that we might be able to improve health and well-being.”

Reynolds continued: “We tested children and young adults, specifically because research shows that when depression occurs in adolescence or early adulthood, it is more likely to reemerge later in life. Therefore, the impact of flavonoids on positive mood in children and young adults could reduce their risk of depression in adolescence and later in life. It is important to do more research to evaluate if this is the case.”

Flavonoids: How They May Work

Over the last decade there has been extensive research documenting the positive effects of flavonoid consumption on cognition including: improvements in attention, inhibition, visuospatial memory, executive function and long-term memory. The improvements are believed to be the result of one of the following mechanisms:

  • An increase in cerebral blood flow
  • Protection against neuronal stress
  • Positively stimulating neural signaling

According to Professor Williams, “Although the mechanism linking flavonoids and mood is not yet known, one hypothesis relates to increased cerebral blood flow to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain. This increased blood flow may help strengthen the neural circuitry in the frontal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive control and emotional regulation. Additionally, flavonoid consumption is known to boost executive function, and there is evidence that executive function is impaired in adults during periods of depression and that impaired executive function increases the risk of recurrence of depression. Therefore, it is plausible that enhanced cerebral blood flow and its ability to boost executive function may help inhibit cognitive features that are associated with depression.”

“The research community is excited about the results of this new study,” said Kit Broihier, MS, RD, nutrition advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. “Research on the association between diet and its impact on mental health is in its early phases. However, the idea that we may be on the verge of understanding the possible impact of wild blueberries on mental health is really thrilling. Wild Blueberries have long been known for their tremendous nutritional value. Could they prove to be a ‘happy berry’ too? I look forward to seeing the results of Professor Williams’ continued research.”

In 2015, a study led by Professor Claire Williams entitled: “Cognitive Effects Following Acute Wild Blueberry Supplementation on 7 – 10-Year-Old Children” was published in the European Journal of Nutrition. The study revealed that Wild Blueberries boost memory and concentration in elementary school children.


For briefings or interviews with authors of the paper, please contact Tim Mayo at the University of Reading, UK, on +44118 378 7110 or email