Research Roundup 11 – Blueberries, the miracle berry!
Until scientists discovered resveratrol, blueberries weren’t very popular except for muffins. They do not have the more powerful flavor of other berries such as strawberries, so items such as blueberry jam are not as striking. Nobody thought about them as health food.
Once their high antioxidant content was discovered (among the highest of all berries), research started in earnest. Interestingly, instead of just studying resveratrol itself, much of the research was concentrated on blueberries or blueberry skin.
Blueberries have been found to help decrease inflammation, as you would expect with the antioxidant level. But they also have some anticancer effect, especially in the triple-nonresponsive type of breast cancer which does not react to estrogen or 2 other types of treatment, which can be of help to about 90% of breast cancer sufferers. The triple-nonresponder cancers tend to be aggressive, strong local invaders and early metastasizers. Blueberries can decrease both local growth and metastasis of this type of cancer. The effect was traced to a specific chemical reaction, and blueberries did not affect that reaction in normal cells.
Blueberries also can help patients with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer also. In addition it can help prevent or reverse some side effects of chemotherapy. This is especially true for kidney damage, and heart damage caused by cyclophosphamide, an anti-cancer drug.
Blueberries can also help heart attack victims. Blueberries help with neuronal growth, which can be especially helpful for stroke victims. For the younger set, they help speed recovery from muscle damage caused by eccentric exercise.
Type II diabetics have much to gain by eating blueberries, especially if they are overweight. Adding blueberries to the diet without any other dietary changes resulted in weight loss or decreased weight gain in obese humans. They have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar. They also help with fatty liver disease, a special danger for cats with Type II diabetes.
Whenever a new supplement comes along that is processed in the liver, there is always concern about how it will react with drugs. The liver has a few main pathways that process drugs and some substances may compete for the pathways (increasing the time for a drug to leave the body). This can result in an increase of that drug in the body as time goes on. But a test of two drugs that use the same pathway as resveratrol showed that blueberries had no effect on the way the liver handles them.
Which is best, fresh, dried, or frozen? Drying blueberries decreased the anthocyanin content a little, but fresh and frozen were about the same. And the amount of antioxidant activity in the anthocyanins was the same for all 3 methods. So pick your favorite, enjoy, and be sure to share with your dogs, cats, and horses!
(To see the references, and an article about how monkeys may have taught stone-age man to use stone tools, see our HOPE newsletter.)