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In the Heart of Harvest Country, Wild Blueberry Research Intensifies

Last month, Midcoast Maine was a hotbed of exciting, innovative research into some of the most urgent areas of health. Bar Harbor, Maine hosted the 14th annual Wild Blueberry Research Summit this August, an event devoted exclusively to continued research into the role of wild blueberries in critical areas of health.

At the Health Summit, top scientists from the U.S. and Canada, collectively known as the “Bar Harbor Group,” come together each year to present compelling new data to substantiate the connection between a blueberry-rich diet and prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes. This year’s Summit once again delivered on the promise of this heralded little fruit.

Widely known as a “brain food” because of its positive effect on brain health as well as for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, the wild blueberry continues to be under the microscope as it expands its nutritional promise into areas such as metabolic syndrome, heart and blood vessel health, and diabetes. Researchers who participate in the Summit share current findings from clinical trials and pilot studies, and explore opportunities for future collaborations as they relate to the the berry’s disease-fighting potential.

More than ever, at the heart of this year’s Summit was the impact of diet on our health, our medical care, and our communities. With a nation that is collapsing under the burden of obesity and nutrition-related health issues, it is an important time for nutritional research. The idea that some of the answers to a considerable community health crisis could be found in a little blue globe of fruit is as remarkable as it is exciting. At the center of these discoveries are leading U.S. and Canadian researchers who are active in the fields of neuroscience, aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, eye health and other health-related areas. Meeting together in Maine, in the middle of wild blueberry country after the harvest season, is particularly fitting.

Part of the compelling new research presented at the Summit included work from Dr. Robert Krikorian of the University of Cincinnati into the connection between wild blueberries and cognitive ability. Krikorian reported on two clinical studies which investigated the effect of a diet supplemented with wild blueberry juice on memory and brain function. Adults in the study had Mild Cognitive Impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease.

Krikorian and his team treated subjects with 15 to 21 ounces of wild blueberry juice per day. Mood and memory were tested, and findings indicated that the subjects had improved recall and improved learning after 12 weeks. While these early findings require more study, initial results suggests a relationship between the regular consumption of blueberry juice and improved brain function.
Other research presented at the Summit included work from Barbara Shukitt-Hale from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging concerning memory and motor function, Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos of the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the U.K.’s University of Reading into wild blueberry consumption and blood vessel function, and Dr. Catherine M. Champagne, Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology/Dietary Assessment at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge into the positive effect of blueberry diet on insulin sensitivity. You can read about some of the Summit’s highlights by reading Annual Health Summit Reveals Promising Benefits of Wild Blueberries.

Each time the Bar Harbor Group comes together, the excitement in the nutritional and scientific fields intensifies. While some of the studies presented at the Summit are in their beginning stages, sharing pilot studies and ongoing clinical trials with such significant potential is the key to moving nutritional research forward and understanding the connections between wild blueberries and disease – especially when they concern diseases that have such a widespread and devastating effect on our population.

Studies into wild blueberries and diseases of aging have already yielded important results. In fact, it’s been since 1998 that these researchers have gathered in Maine to share their data, and past Summits have revealed studies that found positive connections between wild blueberries and satiety, insulin sensitivity, and depression. (Find out more about what we already know about the health benefits of wild blueberries.)

Scientists who study health and nutrition are passionate about understanding wild blueberries’ potential in preventing age-related diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. To what extent they can prevent or forestall these diseases is the mission of researchers like those in attendance at the Summit this year.

It’s an exciting time for the wild blueberry! Find information on research from this year’s Summit at WildBlueberries.com, or read more about the scientists that make up the Bar Harbor Group and their work in the field of disease prevention and healthy aging.

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