Eating Berries Benefits the Brain
Mar. 7, 2012 — Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their new article on the value of eating berry fruits appears in ACS’Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In the article, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Ph.D., and Marshall G. Miller point out that longer lifespans are raising concerns about the human toll and health care costs of treating Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of mental decline. They explain that recent research increasingly shows that eating berry fruits can benefit the aging brain. To analyze the strength of the evidence about berry fruits, they extensively reviewed cellular, animal and human studies on the topic.
Their review concluded that berry fruits help the brain stay healthy in several ways. Berry fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals. The two also report that berry fruits change the way neurons in the brain communicate. These changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition. They suggest that further research will show whether these benefits are a result of individual compounds shared between berry fruits or whether the unique combinations of chemicals in each berry fruit simply have similar effects.
- Marshall G. Miller, Barbara Shukitt-Hale. Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012; : 120203155528007 DOI: 10.1021/jf2036033
Strawberries, Blueberries May Cut Heart Attack Risk in Women
Jan. 14, 2013 — Women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had fewer heart attacks. Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of compounds that have cardiovascular benefits.
Eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may help women reduce their risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third, researchers reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of naturally occurring compounds called dietary flavonoids, also found in grapes and wine, blackberries, eggplant, and other fruits and vegetables. A specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits, according to the study.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” said Eric Rimm D.Sc., senior author and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
Blueberries and strawberries were part of this analysis simply because they are the most-eaten berries in the United States. Thus, it’s possible that other foods could produce the same results, researchers said.
Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom conducted a prospective study among 93,600 women ages 25 to 42 who were registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II. The women completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.
During the study, 405 heart attacks occurred. Women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32-percent reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less — even in women who otherwise ate a diet rich in other fruits and vegetables.
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” said Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom.
The findings were independent of other risk factors, such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
The American Heart Association supports eating berries as part of an overall balanced diet that also includes other fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get the right amounts of nutrients.
- Aedín Cassidy et al. High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association., 2013 DOI:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408
Eating Berries May Activate the Brain’s Natural Housekeeper for Healthy Aging
Aug. 24, 2010 — Scientists have reported the first evidence that eating blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help the aging brain stay healthy in a crucial but previously unrecognized way. Their study, presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), concluded that berries, and possibly walnuts, activate the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism, which cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and other mental decline.
Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., who presented the report, said previous research suggested that one factor involved in aging is a steady decline in the body’s ability to protect itself against inflammation and oxidative damage. This leaves people vulnerable to degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders.
“The good news is that natural compounds called polyphenolics found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline,” said Poulose, who is with the U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston. Poulose did the research with James Joseph, Ph.D., who died June 1. Joseph, who headed the laboratory, pioneered research on the role of antioxidants in fruits and nuts in preventing age-related cognitive decline.
Their past studies, for instance, showed that old laboratory rats fed for two months on diets containing 2 percent high-antioxidant strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry extract showed a reversal of age-related deficits in nerve function and behavior that involves learning and remembering.
In the new research, Poulose and Joseph focused on another reason why nerve function declines with aging. It involves a reduction in the brain’s natural house-cleaning process. Cells called microglia are the housekeepers. In a process called autophagy, they remove and recycle biochemical debris that otherwise would interfere with brain function.
“But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up,” Poulose explained. “In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain. Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries.”
The findings emerged from research in which Joseph and Poulose have tried to detail factors involved in the aging brain’s loss of normal housekeeping activity. Using cultures of mouse brain cells, they found that extracts of berries inhibited the action of a protein that shuts down the autophagy process.
Poulose said the study provides further evidence to eat foods rich in polyphenolics. Although berries and walnuts are rich sources, many other fruits and vegetables contain these chemicals ― especially those with deep red, orange, or blue colors. Those colors come from pigments termed anthocyanins that are good antioxidants. He emphasized the importance of consuming the whole fruit, which contains the full range of hundreds of healthful chemicals. Frozen berries, which are available year round, also are excellent sources of polyphenolics, he added.
American Chemical Society (2010, August 24). Eating berries may activate the brain’s natural housekeeper for healthy aging. ScienceDaily.
Blueberry Juice Improves Memory in Older Adults
Jan. 21, 2010 — Scientists are reporting the first evidence from human research that blueberries — one of the richest sources of healthful antioxidants and other so-called phytochemicals — improve memory. They said the study establishes a basis for comprehensive human clinical trials to determine whether blueberries really deserve their growing reputation as a memory enhancer.
A report on the study appears in ACS’Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Robert Krikorian and colleagues point out that previous studies in laboratory animals suggest that eating blueberries may help boost memory in the aged. Until now, however, there had been little scientific work aimed at testing the effect of blueberry supplementation on memory in people.
In the study, one group of volunteers in their 70s with early memory decline drank the equivalent of 2-2 l/2 cups of a commercially available blueberry juice every day for two months. A control group drank a beverage without blueberry juice. The blueberry juice group showed significant improvement on learning and memory tests, the scientists say. “These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration,” said the report. The research involved scientists from the University of Cincinnati, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Canadian department of agriculture.
- Krikorian et al. Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010; 100104141245097 DOI: 10.1021/jf9029332
Super-Fruits: Tropical Blueberries Extremely High in Healthful Antioxidants, Study Suggests
Apr. 29, 2011 — The first analysis of the healthful antioxidant content of blueberries that grow wild in Mexico, Central and South America concludes that some of these fruits have even more healthful antioxidants than the blueberries — already renowned as “super fruits” — sold throughout the United States. These extreme super fruits could provide even more protection against heart disease, cancer and other conditions, the report suggests.
It appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Edward Kennelly and colleagues note that although there are over 600 species of blueberries and blueberry-like fruits growing in Mexico, Central and South America (the so-called “neotropics”), very little research has been done on them. U.S.-grown blueberries are already famous for their antioxidants, which help the body get rid of harmful free radicals. So, the researchers decided to find out how neotropical blueberries stacked up against a grocery-store variety.
They found that two types of neotropical blueberries were extreme super fruits — they had significantly more antioxidants than a type of blueberry commonly sold in U.S. supermarkets stores. The researchers say that these neotropical blueberries “have the potential to be even more highly promising edible fruits.”
The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
- Keyvan Dastmalchi, Gema Flores, Vanya Petrova, Paola Pedraza-Peñalosa, Edward J. Kennelly. Edible Neotropical Blueberries: Antioxidant and Compositional Fingerprint Analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011; 59 (7): 3020 DOI: 10.1021/jf200367j
Bioactive Compounds in Berries Can Reduce High Blood Pressure
Jan. 15, 2011 — Eating blueberries can guard against high blood pressure, according to new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University.
High blood pressure — or hypertension — is one of the major cardiovascular diseases worldwide. It leads to stroke and heart disease and costs more than $300 billion each year. Around a quarter of the adult population is affected globally — including 10 million people in the UK and one in three US adults.
Published next month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the new findings show that bioactive compounds in blueberries called anthocyanins offer protection against hypertension. Compared with those who do not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving a week reduce their risk of developing the condition by 10 per cent.
Anthocyanins belong to the bioactive family of compounds called flavonoids and are found in high amounts in blackcurrants, raspberries, aubergines, blood orange juice and blueberries. Other flavonoids are found in many fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs. The flavonoids present in tea, fruit juice, red wine and dark chocolate are already known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is the first large study to investigate the effect of different flavonoids on hypertension.
The team of UEA and Harvard scientists studied 134,000 women and 47,000 men from the Harvard established cohorts, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study over a period of 14 years. None of the participants had hypertension at the start of the study. Subjects were asked to complete health questionnaires every two years and their dietary intake was assessed every four years. Incidence of newly diagnosed hypertension during the 14-year period was then related to consumption of various different flavonoids.
During the study, 35,000 participants developed hypertension. Dietary information identified tea as the main contributor of flavonoids, with apples, orange juice, blueberries, red wine, and strawberries also providing important amounts. When the researchers looked at the relation between individual subclasses of flavonoids and hypertension, they found that participants consuming the highest amounts of anthocyanins (found mainly in blueberries and strawberries in this US-based population) were eight per cent less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those consuming the lowest amounts. The effect was even stronger in participants under 60.
The effect was stronger for blueberry rather than strawberry consumption. Compared to people who ate no blueberries, those eating at least one serving of blueberries per week were 10 per cent less likely to become hypertensive.
“Our findings are exciting and suggest that an achievable dietary intake of anthocyanins may contribute to the prevention of hypertension,” said lead author Prof Aedin Cassidy of the Department of Nutrition at UEA’s Medical School.
“Anthocyanins are readily incorporated into the diet as they are present in many commonly consumed foods. Blueberries were the richest source in this particular study as they are frequently consumed in the US. Other rich sources of anthocyanins in the UK include blackcurrants, blood oranges, aubergines and raspberries.”
The next stage of the research will be to conduct randomised controlled trials with different dietary sources of anthocyanins to define the optimal dose and sources for hypertension prevention. This will enable the development of targeted public health recommendations on how to reduce blood pressure.
University of East Anglia (2011, January 15). Bioactive compounds in berries can reduce high blood pressure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved
Blueberries Help Fight Artery Hardening, Lab Animal Study Indicates
Sep. 30, 2010 — Blueberries may help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, according to results of a preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded study with laboratory mice. The research provides the first direct evidence that blueberries can help prevent harmful plaques or lesions, symptomatic of atherosclerosis, from increasing in size in arteries.
Principal investigator Xianli Wu, based in Little Rock, Ark., with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, led the investigation. The findings are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of two forms of cardiovascular disease–heart attacks and strokes. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans.
The study compared the size, or area, of atherosclerotic lesions in 30 young laboratory mice. Half of the animals were fed diets spiked with freeze-dried blueberry powder for 20 weeks; the diet of the other mice did not contain the berry powder.
Lesion size, measured at two sites on aorta (arteries leading from the heart), was 39 and 58 percent less than that of lesions in mice whose diet did not contain blueberry powder.
Earlier studies, conducted elsewhere, have suggested that eating blueberries may help combat cardiovascular disease. But direct evidence of that effect has never been presented previously, according to Wu.
The blueberry-spiked diet contained 1 percent blueberry powder, the equivalent of about a half-cup of fresh blueberries.
All mice in the investigation were deficient in apolipoprotein-E, a trait which makes them highly susceptible to forming atherosclerotic lesions and thus an excellent model for biomedical and nutrition research.
Wu’s group wants to determine the mechanism or mechanisms by which blueberries helped control lesion size. For example, by boosting the activity of four antioxidant enzymes, blueberries may have reduced the oxidative stress that is a known risk factor for atherosclerosis.
In followup studies, Wu’s group wants to determine whether eating blueberries in infancy, childhood and young adulthood would help protect against onset and progression of atherosclerosis in later years. Early prevention may be especially important in light of the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity. Overweight and obesity increase atherosclerosis risk.
- X. Wu, J. Kang, C. Xie, R. Burris, M. E. Ferguson, T. M. Badger, S. Nagarajan. Dietary Blueberries Attenuate Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E-Deficient Mice by Upregulating Antioxidant Enzyme Expression. Journal of Nutrition, 2010; 140 (9): 1628 DOI: 10.3945/jn.110.123927
Eating More Berries May Reduce Cognitive Decline in the Elderly
Apr. 26, 2012 — Blueberries and strawberries, which are high in flavonoids, appear to reduce cognitive decline in older adults according to a new study recently published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society. The study results suggest that cognitive aging could be delayed by up to 2.5 years in elderly who consume greater amounts of the flavonoid-rich berries.
Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that generally have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Experts believe that stress and inflammation contribute to cognitive impairment and that increasing consumption of flavonoids could mitigate the harmful effects. Previous studies of the positive effects of flavonoids, particularly anthocyanidins, are limited to animal models or very small trials in older persons, but have shown greater consumption of foods with these compounds improve cognitive function.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, elderly Americans — those 65 years of age and older — increased by 15% between 2000 and 2010, faster than the total U.S. population, which saw a 9.7% increase during the same time period. “As the U.S. population ages, understanding the health issues facing this group becomes increasingly important,” said Dr. Elizabeth Devore with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. “Our study examined whether greater intake of berries could slow rates of cognitive decline.”
The research team used data from the Nurses’ Health Study — a cohort of 121,700 female, registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976. Since 1980 participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption. Between 1995 and 2001, cognitive function was measured in 16,010 subjects over the age of 70 years, at 2-year intervals. Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74 and mean body mass index of 26.
Findings show that increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries appear to slow cognitive decline in older women. A greater intake of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids was also associated with reduce cognitive degeneration. Researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake delayed cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. The authors caution that while they did control for other health factors in the modeling, they cannot rule out the possibility that the preserved cognition in those who eat more berries may be also influenced by other lifestyle choices, such as exercising more.
“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women,” notes Dr. Devore. “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”
- Elizabeth E. Devore, Jae Hee Kang, Monique M. B. Breteler, Francine Grodstein. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23594
Eating Berries May Lower Risk of Parkinson’s
Feb. 17, 2011 — New research shows men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, while men may also further lower their risk by regularly eating apples, oranges and other sources rich in dietary components called flavonoids.
The study was released February 13 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011.
Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits and are also known collectively as vitamin P and citrin. They can also be found in berry fruits, chocolate, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit.
The study involved 49,281 men and 80,336 women. Researchers gave participants questionnaires and used a database to calculate intake amount of flavonoids. They then analyzed the association between flavonoid intakes and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. They also analyzed consumption of five major sources of foods rich in flavonoids: tea, berries, apples, red wine and oranges or orange juice. The participants were followed for 20 to 22 years.
During that time, 805 people developed Parkinson’s disease. In men, the top 20 percent who consumed the most flavonoids were about 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the bottom 20 percent of male participants who consumed the least amount of flavonoids. In women, there was no relationship between overall flavonoid consumption and developing Parkinson’s disease. However, when sub-classes of flavonoids were examined, regular consumption of anthocyanins, which are mainly obtained from berries, were found to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.
“This is the first study in humans to examine the association between flavonoids and risk of developing Parkinson’s disease,” said study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.”
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
American Academy of Neurology (2011, February 17). Eating berries may lower risk of Parkinson’s. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2013,
More Evidence Berries Have Health-Promoting Properties
Apr. 21, 2013 — Adding more color to your diet in the form of berries is encouraged by many nutrition experts. The protective effect of berries against inflammation has been documented in many studies. Diets supplemented with blueberries and strawberries have also been shown to improve behavior and cognitive functions in stressed young rats.
To evaluate the protective effects of berries on brain function, specifically the ability of the brain to clear toxic accumulation, researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and University of Maryland Baltimore County recently fed rats a berry diet for 2 months and then looked at their brains after irradiation, a model for accelerated aging. All of the rats were fed berries 2 months prior to radiation and then divided into two groups- one was evaluated after 36 hours of radiation and the other after 30 days.
“After 30 days on the same berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to control,” said investigator Shibu Poulose, PhD. “We saw significant benefits to diets with both of the berries, and speculate it is due to the phytonutrients present.”
The researchers looked at neurochemical changes in the brain, in particular what is known as autophagy, which can regulate the synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components. It is also the way in which the brain clears toxic accumulations. “Most diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown an increased amount of toxic protein. Berries seem to promote autophagy, the brain’s natural housekeeping mechanism, thereby reducing the toxic accumulation,” said Poulose.
The researchers are currently conducting a human study in older people ages 60-75. “We have a lot of animal work that suggests these compounds will protect the aged brain and reverse some of behavioral deficits. We are hoping it will translate to human studies as well,” said Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, the lead investigator conducting the human study.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2013, April 21). More evidence berries have health-promoting properties.
Biotransformed Blueberry Juice Fights Fat And Diabetes
Sep. 2, 2009 — Juice extracted from North American lowbush blueberries, biotransformed with bacteria from the skin of the fruit, holds great promise as an anti-obesity and anti-diabetic agent.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, was conducted by researchers from the Université de Montréal, the Institut Armand-Frappier and the Université de Moncton who tested the effects of biotransformed juices compared to regular blueberry drinks on mice.
“Results of this study clearly show that biotransformed blueberry juice has strong anti-obesity and anti-diabetic potential,” says senior author Pierre S. Haddad, a pharmacology professor at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine. “Biotransformed blueberry juice may represent a novel therapeutic agent, since it decreases hyperglycemia in diabetic mice and can protect young pre-diabetic mice from developing obesity and diabetes.”
The scientists tested the effect of biotransformed blueberry juice on a group of mice prone to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and hypertension. Incorporating biotransformed blueberry juice into the water of mice reduced their food intake and their body weight. “These mice were an excellent model that closely resembles obesity and obesity-linked type 2 diabetes in humans,” says Dr. Haddad, who is also director of the CIHR Team in Aboriginal Anti-Diabetic Medicines at the Université de Montréal.
Biotransformation of the blueberry juice was achieved with a new strain of bacteria isolated from the blueberry flora, specifically called Serratia vaccinii, which increases the fruit’s antioxidant effects. “The identification of the active compounds in biotransformed blueberry juice may result in the discovery of promising new antiobesity and antidiabetic molecules,” says Dr. Haddad.
As for the impact of blueberry products on diabetes, says Tri Vuong, lead author and recent PhD graduate from the Université de Montréal’s Department of Pharmacology: “Consumption of fermented blueberry juice gradually and significantly reduced high blood glucose levels in diabetic mice. After three days, our mice subjects reduced their glycemia levels by 35 percent.”
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Fonds de recherche sur la nature et les technologies.
- T Vuong, A Benhaddou-Andaloussi, A Brault, D Harbilas, L C Martineau, D Vallerand, C Ramassamy, C Matar and P S Haddad. Antiobesity and antidiabetic effects of biotransformed blueberry juice in KKAy mice.International Journal of Obesity, 2009; DOI:10.1038/ijo.2009.149
Blueberries May Help Reduce Belly Fat, Diabetes Risk
Apr. 20, 2009 — Could eating blueberries help get rid of belly fat? And could a blueberry-enriched diet stem the conditions that lead to diabetes? A new University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study suggests so.
The new research, presented April 19 at the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans, gives tantalizing clues to the potential of blueberries in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that blueberries contain.
The study was performed in laboratory rats. While the animal findings suggest blueberries may be protective against two health conditions that affect millions of Americans, more research should be done.
The researchers studied the effect of blueberries (freeze dried blueberries crushed into a powder) that were mixed into the rat diet, as part of either a low- or high-fat diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diets and the control rats receiving no blueberry powder. All the rats were from a research breed that is prone to being severely overweight.
In all, after 90 days, the rats that received the blueberry-enriched powder, measured as 2 percent of their diet, had less abdominal fat, lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, and improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity, which are measures of how well the body processes glucose for energy.
While regular blueberry intake reduced these risks for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, the health benefits were even better when combined with a low-fat diet.
In addition to all the other health benefits, the group that consumed a low-fat diet had lower body weight, lower total fat mass and reduced liver mass, than those who ate a high fat diet. An enlarged liver is linked to obesity and insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes.
The rats in the study were similar to Americans who suffer fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome as a result of high-fat diets and obesity. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that include too much fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides, and together these conditions increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
But were the health benefits seen in rats a result of losing abdominal fat, or something else?
“Some measurements were changed by blueberry even if the rats were on a high fat diet,” says E. Mitchell Seymour, M.S., lead researcher and manager of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. “We found by looking at fat muscle tissue, that blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and storage. Looking at muscle tissue, we saw altered genes related to glucose uptake.”
Steven Bolling, M.D., a U-M heart surgeon and head of the Cardioprotection Laboratory, says: “The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables has been well-researched, but our findings in regard to blueberries shows the naturally occurring chemicals they contain, such as anthocyanins, show promise in mitigating these health conditions.”
Although the current study was supported by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which also supplied the blueberry powder, the council did not play a role in the study’s conduct, analysis or the preparation of the poster presentation.
University of Michigan (2009, April 20). Blueberries May Help Reduce Belly Fat, Diabetes Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19,
Blueberries May Inhibit Development of Fat Cells
Apr. 11, 2011 — The benefits of blueberry consumption have been demonstrated in several nutrition studies, more specifically the cardio-protective benefits derived from their high polyphenol content. Blueberries have shown potential to have a positive effect on everything from aging to metabolic syndrome. Recently, a researcher from Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, TX, examined whether blueberries could play a role in reducing one of the world’s greatest health challenges: obesity.
Shiwani Moghe, MS, a graduate student at TWU, decided to evaluate whether blueberry polyphenols play a role in adipocyte differentiation, the process in which a relatively unspecialized cell acquires specialized features of an adipocyte, an animal connective tissue cell specialized for the synthesis and storage of fat. Plant polyphenols have been shown to fight adipogenesis, which is the development of fat cells, and induce lipolysis, which is the breakdown of lipids/fat.
“I wanted to see if using blueberry polyphenols could inhibit obesity at a molecular stage,” said Moghe. The study was performed in tissue cultures taken from mice. The polyphenols showed a dose-dependent suppression of adipocyte differentiation. The lipid content in the control group was significantly higher than the content of the tissue given three doses of blueberry polyphenols. The highest dose of blueberry polyphenols yielded a 73% decrease in lipids; the lowest dose showed a 27% decrease.
“We still need to test this dose in humans, to make sure there are no adverse effects, and to see if the doses are as effective. This is a burgeoning area of research. Determining the best dose for humans will be important,” said Moghe. “The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce adipose tissue from forming in the body.”
These preliminary results contribute more items to the laundry list of benefits related to blueberries, which have already been shown to mitigate health conditions like cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Moghe presented her research at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting for the American Society for Nutrition on April 10.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2011, April 11). Blueberries may inhibit development of fat cells.