There’s been growing awareness of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in recent years. However, finding effective treatment can still be challenging for people with these conditions. A series of studies conducted on rats may indicate that eating blueberries could help.
Many have claimed that blueberries are a superfood that provide multiple health benefits. Even so, Munchies reports that researchers at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine looked at blueberries’ effects on mental health rather than their supposed anti-aging or cancer preventing properties. Specifically, the scientists looked at how the berries affect the genetic and biochemical drivers that lead to depression and suicidal tendencies in PTSD sufferers.
A press release provides details of the study. It says that the researchers first had to induce PTSD-like effects in the animals. This caused them to exhibit fear when faced with unfamiliar objects. The researchers then gave the rats a blueberry rich diet.
The press release states that it cannot be known if the rats experienced suicidal thoughts. However, the study was able to focus on a gene known as SKA2. This gene is expressed at low levels in people who have committed suicide. The rats with PTSD-like symptoms also expressed low levels of SKA2 compared to the normal laboratory rats. When fed blueberries, the PTSD rats’ SKA2 levels increased.
Joseph Francis, the study’s senior author, says that these findings “suggest that a nonpharmacological agent like blueberries can have an effect on the expression of this important gene.”
This research builds on a previous study that found rats with PTSD-like symptoms that were fed blueberries experienced an increase in serotonin. This chemical is associated with feelings of happiness.
Medications that increase serotonin levels are currently used to treat depression, according to the press release. But, these have limited success and can sometimes increase suicidal tendencies. By studying the link between SKA2 and serotonin the researchers hope that they’ll find out if blueberries can help relieve feelings of depression and reduce suicidal tendencies simultaneously.
Clinical trials on humans will need to be conducted before we can know for sure if blueberries have the same effect on people. But in the meantime, Francis believes “eating blueberries can’t hurt – and may help – in people with PTSD.”
Even if you’re just in it for the flavour, check out these blueberry recipes.