In 2016, blueberry growers celebrated their crop’s 100th birthday of being commercially grown for consumption, and there are multiple reason to celebrate. From lowering blood pressure to protecting from DNA damage, new research has shown this little berry to have a dramatically positive impact on our health.
Daily blueberry consumption lowers blood pressure
A clinical trial from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found out that eating blueberries daily may improve blood pressure. The 48 participants, postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension, were randomly given either 22 grams of blueberry powder or 22 grams of control powder (placebo).
After 8 weeks, the group that received the blueberry powder had lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure (about 5-6% reduction) and higher levels of nitric oxide. The group that was given the control powder had no changes.
Sarah A. Johnson, one of the scientists in this study, said: “Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk.”
Blueberry improves memory function
Twelve weeks of wild blueberry juice consumption has improved memory and reduced symptoms of depression, showed a 2011 study by Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The subjects, nine older adults with early memory changes, had “improved paired-associate learning and word list recall.”
Improved memory function is likely a result of anthocyanins, a polyphenolic compound in blueberries, which is connected to decreased neurodegeneration.
The study concluded 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.”
Reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease
Naturally occurring anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in blueberries generate energy in the cells, help absorb nutrients, and promote normal cell functions, according to Dr. Mary Ann Lila, director of North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI).
A cup of blueberries a day may help prevent brain cell degeneration, thus protecting against neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
“[Blueberries] can have synergistic benefits that surpass many other fruits when it comes to protection against brain cell death, which in turn may reduce the risk of contracting Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Lila.
Guards against DNA damage
A 2012 study published in Nutrition Research found that just one time consumption of 300 grams of blueberries showed a short-term substantial reduction (18%) of DNA for one hour in ten young volunteers.
While previous studies have showed that it is mainly the anthocyanins and flavanols in the blueberries that have the biggest health impact, researcher from the University of Milan wrote that the health benefits may be the synergy of different vitamins and compounds in this berry.
“The protection against oxidative stress may be related to other bioactives absorbed…acting alone or synergistically,” according to the researchers from the University of Milan, “[T]hese compounds could have indirectly activated signaling mechanisms of defense (antioxidant enzymes through gene expression modulation) even though the effect is not maintained at 2 hours.”
Hundreds of studies have been done on the effect of blueberries on bone health, brain function, cancer prevention, liver and urinary tract health, and numerous other conditions.
A long list of studies can be found at the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s website.
It’s also important to buy blueberries organic whenever possible, as they have previously landed on the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of foods with the most pesticide residues (although they did not make the 2015 list) Freezing blueberries is also an excellent way to keep plenty of them on hand, but be careful when buying them out of season as there is a stronger possibility of them having mold.
Buy in season whenever possible, preferably fresh from the farm!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Have you heard? Medicinal mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and Reishi have been shown to improve cognitive function while protecting against neurodegeneration of the brain, similar to blueberries. I have been taking this blend of eight different organic mushrooms from Paleo Valley lately, one of my favorite organic companies.
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