Blueberry health benefit and research - heart health, memory and mind improvement

April 12 2014 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
 

Blueberries provide a variety of benefits to so many parts of the body, and are considered a superfood. Full of antioxidants, they can have a positive effect on the heart, the brain, the stomach, the bladder, and many more organs and tissues. Several species of blueberries are native in the U.S., and fruits of many are gathered from the wild. for more information see berries.

 

Antioxidant composition
Anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, pterostilbene, kaempferol, and tannins.
 

DNA protection
Nutr Res. 2013. A single portion of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L) improves protection against DNA damage but not vascular function in healthy male volunteers.

 

Heart health
Eating blueberries, as part of a healthy diet, reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, such as an accumulation of belly fat, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. The health benefits of blueberries are thought to be due to their high levels of anthocyanins found in darkly pigmented fruits and vegetables. University of Michigan research scientist E. Mitchell Seymour investigated the effects of adding freeze-dried blueberry powder to a low-fat and a high-fat diet. After 90 days, rats fed the blueberry powder had less abdominal fat and lower levels of cholesterol and harmful triglycerides than control rats that weren't fed any blueberry powder. The study was supported by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and published in 2009.

 

Memory and mental health
Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults (dagger).
J Agric Food Chem. 2010. Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The prevalence of dementia is increasing with expansion of the older adult population. In the absence of effective therapy, preventive approaches are essential to address this public health problem. Blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds, most prominently anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, anthocyanins have been associated with increased neuronal signaling in brain centers, mediating memory function as well as improved glucose disposal, benefits that would be expected to mitigate neurodegeneration. This study investigated the effects of daily consumption of wild blueberry juice in a sample of nine older adults with early memory changes. At 12 weeks, improved paired associate learning and word list recall were observed. In addition, there were trends suggesting reduced depressive symptoms and lower glucose levels. We also compared the memory performances of the blueberry subjects with a demographically matched sample who consumed a berry placebo beverage in a companion trial of identical design and observed comparable results for paired associate learning. The findings of this preliminary study suggest that moderate-term blueberry supplementation can confer neurocognitive benefit and establish a basis for more comprehensive human trials to study preventive potential and neuronal mechanisms.

 

North Korea doing blueberry research

North Korean scientists are trying to find out the healing power of blueberries. "The government has taken measures to deepen the research into blueberries," the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday, citing the fruit's effectiveness in "lowering cholesterol content in the blood vessels, liver and kidney as well as preventing and curing heart and blood diseases." The report claimed the "sterilizing power" of blueberry was also potent in treating internal diseases, and for remove poisoning by heavy metals and drugs. KCNA said the blueberry was a special product of Mount Paektu the highest peak on the peninsula, where the North claims its leader Kim Jong Il was born and claimed wine made from blueberries harvested at the mountain was one the country's famous spirits "popular at home and abroad."

Blueberry research, antioxidant
Total antioxidant power in sled dogs supplemented with blueberries and the comparison of blood parameters associated with exercise.
Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2006. Dunlap KL, Reynolds AJ, Duffy LK. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
Research indicates that exercise contributes to oxidative stress. Fruits, such as blueberries, are good antioxidants because they contain phenolics that preferentially react with free radicals. Maintaining antioxidant levels by supplementing the diet with blueberries may prevent exercise-induced oxidative damage. The goal of our study was to compare antioxidant levels in sled dogs supplemented with blueberries on blood parameters within 48 h post-exercise. Though the exercise protocol did not cause unusual muscle damage as reflected in plasma creatine kinase and isoprostane levels, blueberry supplementation did elicit significantly elevated antioxidant status in sled dogs post exercise. This suggests that dogs fed blueberries while exercising as compared to dogs fed a control diet while exercising, may be better protected against oxidative damage.

 

Blueberry consumption and supplementation benefit questions

So, what are your thoughts on blueberries? They've been lauded like crazy in recent months for their ability to facilitate good brain function. Having smoked alot of pot in my misguided youth, and having a family history of Alzeimer's, I've developed a keen interest in finding healthful methods of preserving my [remaining] faculties. I've taken to organics. Eating only organic fruits and veggies, and fresh salmon out the wazoo, I thought was the right path until I read about the 'magical' abilities of certain components found in blueberries. Now, I eat blueberries by the pint daily. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on recent findings associated with antioxidant rich blueberries? The tide of studies and recommendations seems like an onslaught at times - difficult to digest at such a speedy rate, and everything sounds like an infomercial. I wish someone would produce a bunk-o-meter site for this type of data. Anyway, great site. Informative. Interesting. Appears honest and not overly technical.

   Our preference is to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as opposed to a lot of one. Blueberries are healthy, but it is better to consume a small amount of several types rather than a large amount of one.

 

We are older persons living in Mexico and would like to know which antioxidant is more potent - blueberry or pomegranate? We grow pomegranate trees here all over the place, and we chew on the seeds, and eat the fruit - we feel this is better than taking capsules. Would the results on lowering cholesterol, plaque, etc. be the same, or would blueberry extract be better?
   Which is healthier, an apple or an orange? They are both good. I prefer people eat a variety of fruits rather than focus on just a limited number.