Blueberries are considered to be a superfood because of their concentrated and diverse profiles of bioactive phytochemicals. Almost all phytoactives found in blueberries function as antioxidants. The complex phytonutrient profile of blueberries has the ability to impact the endocrine system by specifically targeting diabetes and obesity management.
Our research has shown that Alaskan wild blueberries are capable of slowing down the formation of new fat cells (adipogenesis), a direct implication in obesity management. This research also showed that the phytochemical composition of blueberries has the ability to change cellular targets that are at work in diabetes.
New research is suggesting a connection between diabetes and internal inflammation. Chronic inflammation due to high levels of inflammatory cytokines are associated with the development of diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Our research concerning lowbush “wild” blueberries showed that at least one marker of inflammatory activity was reduced. This research demonstrated that specific anthocyanins suppressed the activation of inflammatory genes, suggesting that blueberries may improve diabetes outcomes that are linked with sustained internal inflammation. It was also shown that the high antioxidant capacity and phenolic content of blueberries has the ability to decrease the enzyme activity associated with the body’s ability to utilize glucose.
Concerning diabetes, our research shows that anthocyanins found in blueberries may increase the secretion of insulin, while reducing the digestion of sugars in the small intestine, thus having multiple and simultaneous anti-diabetic effects. Blueberry extracts have been found to have insulin-like properties, contributing to the uptake of glucose. Our research explored blueberries, rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, paired with soy flour as a means to offer a functional food that is rich in protein and polyphenols while delivering the capability of managing blood glucose levels.
The digestive system is comprised of millions of bacteria. The bacteria found in the digestive system play an important role in health and disease. Blueberries have been found to be rich in prebiotics. Prebiotics serve as the food for probiotics, contributing to healthy bacteria in the gut and colon. Our research showed that blueberry extracts contributed to the growth of two probiotics, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. There has been relevant research which has shown that blueberry consumption enhances the gut microbial profile. Science has proven that there is a direct link between human intestinal microbiota and disease. Our research has shown that blueberry intake has the ability to change the distinct gut phenolic (phytochemical) signature, meaning that blueberries have the ability to address gut inflammation by aiding good gut bacteria.
Research has shown that blueberry consumption enhances the healthy microbes in the gut. There is a direct link between the gut profile and the occurrence of disease, modification of the gut microflora may interfere with the onset of cancer. Research we have been involved with has found that blueberry extract consumption was effective at promoting the growth of two strains of beneficial gut bacteria.
Blueberries are rich in polyphenols. Flavonoids are part of blueberries’ polyphenol family. Flavonoids have been found to have health effects that include anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, immune-regulatory, anti-carcinogenic and heart protective, all of which contribute to overall health. We collaborated on research that addressed the effect of a polyphenol enriched soy protein product and its influence upon inflammation and oxidative stress in athletes via the gut profile. The research showed that supplementation of the blueberry and green tea enriched soy protein product had the ability to cause a distinct gut phenolic signature in long distance runners. Additional research is needed to understand whether this type of supplementation can bear effect upon inflammation and oxidative stress and therefore associated diseases.
The ability of nerve cells to send information throughout the body is dependent upon oxygen metabolism. Blueberries help provide antioxidants to aid oxygen metabolism and maintain healthy cognitive function.
Our research has shown that blueberry extracts, rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, slowed the neurodegeneration associated with the environmental pollutant rotenone more so that extracts containing other polyphenols. The implication of this research is that anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins from berries provide a neuro-protective effect that may lower the risk Parkinson’s Disease or slow disease progression.
Our research shows that proanthocyanidins isolated from wild and cultivated blueberries slowed the increase of specific cancer cell lines associated with prostate cancer. Further investigation may reveal blueberries as part of an effective treatment plan for early stage prostate cancer or as a prostate cancer preventative.
Blueberries and Human Health
EAT – Enjoy this blueberry recipe or check out the Recipe section for more inspiration.
Blueberry Mint Compote
2 lbs. of fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup chia seed
2 tbsp. water
Mix all ingredients together. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit to cool.
Spread on toast, use as a marinade, or serve as a side for chicken.
*If any terms were confusing, check out the Glossary.