Blueberries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


What did you eat for breakfast this morning? I had yogurt with blueberries, lots of blueberries. Akin to gulping down a mug of coffee, these plump babes are part of my morning routine. The sweet burst on my tongue makes me smile and, let’s admit, smiles are more attractive than frowns. If I miss a day munching on an overflowing cup of blueberries, my mojo is all messed up. Thank goodness for blueberries. Why? Not only are they packed with anti-inflammatory, heart-protective, brain-healing extracts (see earlier blog post), they are the anti-depressant of the future.

Based on animal studies, researchers at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine suggest that blueberries may help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. With the rise in PTSD diagnoses, this is good news, particularly since suicide is a very real risk among sufferers.

When researchers induced PTSD-like symptoms in rats, they found that, in comparison to “normal” rats, they had unusually low levels of SKA2, a gene expressed at unusually low levels in people who have committed suicide. The PTSD rates were fed a blueberry-rich diet – as much as two cups – and the results showed increased levels of SKA2 compared to the non-PTSD rats fed a regular diet. The SKA2 study came in follow-up to an earlier one in which blueberry-fed rats showed increased levels of serotonin, the saving grace brain chemical that makes us happy. Researchers plan to further evaluate the link between blueberries and SKA2, with the hope of finding a single pathway by which blueberries can relive both depression and suicidal behaviors.

In the meantime, since blueberries are harmless (unless they are sprayed with chemicals even a veteran linguist can’t pronounce), why not feed your brain a cup or two? And blueberries just might be better than taking drugs: anti-depressants, particularly Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), used to treat PTSD are not always successful. Paradoxically enough, they have been linked to increased suicide tendencies in some people.

Hmm … if two cups of blueberries a day equals, say, twenty milligrams of an SSRI a day, and there are three hundred sixty-five days in a year, if my math is correct, that comes to seven thousand three hundred milligrams of said SSRI versus seven hundred thirty cups of blueberries. Pass the blueberries please.

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