Health Benefits of Blueberries

What are blueberries?
Nutritional profile
Functional ingredients
Specific health benefits
Further reading

As the saying goes, you are what you eat. A balanced diet is therefore essential for good health and should contain a variety of elements. These include starchy foods (potatoes, pasta, bread), high-protein foods such as meat, fish, or plant sources, dairy products or dairy alternatives, and various fruits and vegetables. This article discusses the health benefits of blueberries.

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What are blueberries?

Blueberries are the fruit of a perennial flowering plant of the genus Vaccine, native to North America, closely related to blueberries, cranberries and blueberries. Usually prostrate shrubs, the plants can range in height from 4 inches to 13 feet.

Blueberries have a long history of cultivation by the First Nations peoples of Canada, stretching back millennia before the European colonization of mainland America. Today, blueberry varieties are grown commercially in places like Australia, New Zealand, and South America. The total world production of blueberries in 2016 was 629,720 tons.

Nutritional profile

A 100g serving of raw blueberries contains 57 calories, 0.3g fat, 0.7g protein and 14g carbohydrates, including 10g sugar, 2.4g dietary fiber and the rest carbohydrates complex. 0g of fat present is saturated and blueberries do not contain cholesterol.

Blueberries are a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. The vitamins provided by a 100g serving of blueberries include 11% DRV of vitamin C, 4% vitamin B6, 16% vitamin K, as well as vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. Essential minerals provided by blueberries include manganese (15%), copper (6%), iron (2%), phosphorus (2%), potassium (25) and zinc (1% DRV. )

Blueberries also have a good amino acid profile and are a superior source of antioxidants, which provide several health benefits.

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Functional ingredients

Besides being low in calories and cholesterol, which helps with weight loss and overall health, the benefits of consuming blueberries come from their functional ingredients.

Bioactive ingredients in blueberries include polyphenols, anthocyanins, and antioxidant properties. There have been many studies on the functional ingredient composition of different strains of blueberries, including Chinese and Brazilian derivatives, as well as varieties from the United States and Canada. Different varieties have been found to have different functional ingredient profiles. Antioxidant profiles show great variation between different varieties of blueberries.

Particularly interesting research has shown that juice from blueberries pretreated with a pulsed electric field contains higher levels of antioxidants than those not treated in this way. Total antioxidant activity was increased by 31% with total phenolic and anthocyanin activity increasing by 43% and 60% respectively.

Specific health benefits

Due to the nutritional profile and functional ingredients, regular consumption of blueberries has been linked to several specific health benefits. These include:[if–>

Anti-cancer properties

Because of their anthocyanin and phenolic acid content, as well as antioxidant properties, blueberries have anticancer properties. Phenolic acids and anthocyanins lower proliferative, angiogenic transcript, and antiapoptotic levels and prevent carcinogenesis and lower the risk of cancer resurgence. Antioxidants lower the presence of free radicals and the risk of oxidative stress, which has been linked to DNA damage and tumor development.

Anti-obesity properties

Aside from being low in calories, blueberries have other anti-obesity properties linked to their functional ingredients. One study showed that anthocyanins in blueberries inhibit insulin signaling in adipocytes, inducing insulin glucose uptake and reducing glycerol release in adipocytes. Fatty acid synthase expression shows a significant reduction when wild blueberries are consumed. The blueberry extract shows potential as a therapeutic tool for obesity-related comorbidities.

Degenerative disease prevention

Daily consumption of blueberries can provide protection against degenerative diseases due to antioxidant activity, α-glucosidase inhibition, and antiproliferative properties. Research shows that anthocyanins (to which the antioxidant and antiproliferative properties are linked to) reduce reactive oxygen species, and xanthine oxidase-1 capacities, and strengthen heme oxygenase-1, superoxide dismutase, and malvidin capacities.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Consumption of wild blueberries has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. The phenolic acids, flavonoids, and procyanidins present have been linked to this health benefit. Anthocyanins help increase cytokines and help to reduce oxidative stress when consumed in large enough volumes. Blueberry extract has been identified as a novel therapeutic agent due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.   

Improved brain health

In animal studies, blueberries were shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as improve neuronal signaling and protect brain function. Blueberry anthocyanins have also been shown to improve brain function in older adults due to improving cognitive function, promoting activation and perfusion in the brain. Memory function mediation, glucose disposal, and delaying neurodegeneration are also ways blueberries improve brain health.

Improved vision

Regular consumption of blueberries can also have positive effects on eye health. Anthocyanins in blueberries contribute to this, in particular cyanidin-3 glucoside, and studies have shown that they hasten retinal recovery after photobleaching. Polyphenols also provide protection against light-induced retinal damage.

Heart health

Blueberries contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, providing benefits to heart health. Additionally, the antioxidant levels of blueberries protect against LDL cholesterol oxidation. In one study, it was found that a 50g serving reduced LDL oxidation in patients by 27% over eight weeks. The study also noted a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure in patients.

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Due to their superior nutritional profile and potential health benefits, blueberries should be consumed regularly as part of a balanced diet. This is especially important in aging patients. However, patients should talk to their doctor or a medical professional before including blueberry extracts in their diet.


Further Reading

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