Could Blueberries Help Treat PTSD?

Close-up of a blueberry bushBlueberries could help correct some of the biochemical factors that lead to depression and suicidal thoughts among people with posttraumatic stress (PTSD), according to a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2016 annual meeting.

Blueberries have attracted attention in recent years as a so-called “superfood” with the power to address many ailments. Their antioxidant properties may help correct cell damage that leads to cancer. Some research also links blueberry consumption to lower blood pressure, stronger bones, and a healthy digestive tract. They may also prevent the cognitive decline that contributes to conditions such as Parkinson’s, in addition to boosting motor skills and short-term memory.

Blueberries as a Treatment for Rats with PTSD

Researchers induced symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress in rats, then fed them a blueberry-rich diet to assess its effects on symptoms of PTSD.

It is impossible to know whether a rat is suicidal, so researchers focused on a gene associated with suicidal ideation. Previous studies have found abnormally low levels of the gene SKA2 in people who kill themselves, suggesting rats with low levels of this gene might have symptoms of depression or trauma.

Among rats who ate a blueberry-rich diet, SKA2 levels increased compared to those who ate their usual food. This suggests something as simple as diet may be able to alter the expression of at least one gene associated with PTSD.

Could Blueberries Help Humans, Too?

The study’s authors conducted a similar study last year that showed an increase in serotonin levels among rats who ate blueberry-rich diets. Many antidepressants act on serotonin, a chemical associated with feelings of well-being and happiness.

The latest study raises questions about a potential link between SKA2 and serotonin, though antidepressants that act on serotonin have had limited success rates for treating PTSD.

Because the study was conducted on rats, researchers do not yet know if the results are applicable to humans. Differences in rat and human behavior, habits, and biology might mean blueberries offer no benefits to people with PTSD. Because blueberries are harmless, people with PTSD might want to try incorporating them into their diets. Future research may identify whether and to what extent the berries benefit people experiencing the effects of trauma.


  1. Blueberries may offer benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder. (2016, April 5). Retrieved from
  2. Ware, M., RDN, LD. (2016, March 15). Blueberries: Health benefits, facts, research. Retrieved from

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  • Ellis


    April 7th, 2016 at 5:09 PM

    Why is it that too many times we are looking for the answer to our ailments in a bottle of pills while instead we should more likely be looking at the things that we provide for our body on a nutritional level. Eat healthy fresh foods, stay away from all of the processed and pre packaged foods, and most of us would probably begin to see an immediate improvement in our health.

  • Stephanie H

    Stephanie H

    April 8th, 2016 at 7:50 AM

    They are supposedly filled with antioxidants, something that I usually only hear good things about.

  • wilson


    April 9th, 2016 at 12:37 PM

    I do believe that nutritional answers do hold value and promise but I have a hard time believing that this alone could be the only answer. To me it makes a little more sense that this would work best with working with a therapist. I just think that working with another person is going to hold a lot of value for me as well as many other patients or those who struggle with PTSD.

  • hollis


    April 11th, 2016 at 3:53 PM

    I hope that with findings like this then this will be encouragement to look for hidden benefits in other foods as well. We don’t need to stop at this- I think that we should instead view this as a major starting point to becoming truly holistic and healthy without always having to depend on medication to do the job.

  • Grace


    April 12th, 2016 at 2:34 PM

    I am assuming that there is no real way to know whether this actually works in humans is to have those with PTSD purposely eat a great quantity of blueberries and then determine whether or not their symptoms seem to decrease. I guess that the problem with this would be that you don’t know if it is the addition of the berry to the diet which helps to show improvement to or if it is simply the passage of time. Interesting work for the future I am sure.

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