HEALTH BENEFITS


Blueberry Health Benefits Receive Big Praise
in Science Studies and Media

Natural Blues are the Right Color to Bring out Your Best

Want to retain your memory? Try a blueberry. Lower your risk factors for some cancers? Make blueberries part of your diet. How about a great natural source of antioxidants for optimum health? That's right, true blues.

The long list of health benefits associated with blueberries is becoming as well known among the general public as it has been for many years in the health and research communities and with professional growers. From Newsweek to the Wall Street Journal and beyond, it's almost impossible now not to hear something good, make that great, about blueberries.

“When it comes to brain protection, there's nothing quite like blueberries, according to Tufts neuroscientist James Joseph,” as recounted in Newsweek (6/17/02). "'call the blueberry the brain berry,– says Joseph, who attributes the effects to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.” In the Wall Street Journal (4/29/03), a recent article on reversing memory loss noted “blueberries . . . had the strongest impact” in a study showing aging rodents behaved more like their younger counterparts when fed several different fruits.

In fact, blueberries are a standout fruit in the 5 A Day The Color Way™ for Better Health Program, the nation's largest public-private nutrition education initiative. With the goal of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to 5 A Day for 75 percent of Americans by 2010, the program recommends that consumers should Eat Your Colors. Of course that means blueberries as one of the top fruits and vegetables in the Blue/Purple category. According to the program, blues and purples lower the risk of some cancers and promote urinary tract health, memory function, and healthy aging with their varying amounts of health-promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics, currently being studied for their antioxidant and anti-aging benefits.

For easy reference, the list from many sources of reported blueberry benefits includes:

  • improved vision
  • clearing arteries
  • more antioxidants for disease protection
  • strengthening blood vessels
  • enhanced memory
  • stopping urinary tract infections
  • reversing age-related physical and mental declines
  • promoting weight control.

“We now know that blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants, substances that can slow the aging process and reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer,” according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Antioxidant refers to the negative oxidation properties or compounds found in blueberries. Certain natural fruits and vegetables supply the body with chemicals which react against particularly harmful oxidants associated with elements (“free radicals”) which can damage a wide variety of functions and internal processes, including genetic DNA in reproductive cells and receptor sites in the brain.

Now many international studies are confirming and discovering the benefits associated with blueberries. “There are a lot of research avenues to follow that may explain the blueberry's ability to reduce stroke-induced damage,” said Professor Marva Sweeney-Nixon, a researcher at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada. And a recent Japanese study concluded blueberry extract is beneficial for the prevention of weak eyesight and the best way to relieve tired eyes for people on the go with no time to rest.

Of course, many blueberry health benefits have been known and recognized for years. For just 40 calories in a ½-cup serving, blueberries offer a great lineup of nutrients like potassium and iron, as well as being a an excellent source of Vitamin C. And let's not forget that blueberries also provide dietary fiber, two grams in each ½-cup serving which about equals the amount of fiber in a slice of whole wheat bread.

Health Magazine has recently listed blueberries as the top source of antioxidant activity in a Guide to 50 Super Foods. The magazine added, “Blueberries are a particularly rich source of antioxidants called anthocyanins (also contained in apples, grapes, blackberries, radishes, and red cabbage). Several studies suggest anthocyanins discourage blood clots from forming, warding off heart attacks. They also appear to improve night vision and to slow macular degeneration by strengthening tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye.”

Another big backer of blueberries includes Prevention Magazine. “Recent studies even suggest that blueberries may actually reverse the decline in memory that can occur with aging,” noted the nationwide publication. “Here's the scoop: among all the popular fresh fruits and vegetables, blueberries are number one in total antioxidant power. Besides antioxidants, blueberries contain condensed tannins that help prevent urinary tract infections.”

In the Journal of Neuroscience, a 1999 study had equally positive results. “The exciting finding from this study is the potential reversal of some age-related impairments in both memory and motor coordination, especially with blueberry supplements,” said Molly Wagster – a health scientist administrator at the National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the study – in a statement reported by MSNBC.com.

And just in case the term comes up in polite conversation, nutriceutical is the newest word being tossed about among those in the know in health circles concerning the benefits attributed to blueberries. A combination of NUTRItion and pharmaCEUTICAL, NUTRICEUTICAL describes the naturally based way – as opposed to artificially from a laboratory environment – to preserve good health.

“In general, blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables we have studied,” concluded Dr. Ronald Prior in a noted 1998 research study (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 46, no. 7) conducted at Tufts University. Because of the good news to date, researchers will go on to study the health benefits of blueberries long into the future since there is much left to know and confirm. “In the meantime,” admitted Dr. Prior, “I'm eating blueberries every day.”

 

 

 


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Paid for by the Oregon Blueberry Commission, an agency of the State of Oregon.