20 Years of Health Research

Since 1997, the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) has been collaborating with elite scientists to help study the health benefits of wild blueberries. WBANA is dedicated to furthering research that explores the health potential of wild blueberries and annually funds research studies that help advance the understanding of the nutritional and human health benefits of wild blueberries.

Each year, WBANA has hosts the Wild Blueberry Health Research Summit in Bar Harbor, Maine, a worldwide gathering of renowned scientists and researchers from leading institutions representing broad disciplines — from cardiovascular health to cancer to heart disease, osteoporosis, neurological diseases of aging, and more. Their work is leading the way to learn more about the health benefits of wild blueberries, and their findings, which use rigorous methodology, are documented in a growing number of published studies on the potential health and disease-fighting benefits of wild blueberries. All published research studies are written by and submitted to peer-reviewed journals by the researcher, independent of WBANA.

Below are scientific research papers that provide more detail into the role wild blueberries may play in promoting human health.

Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries

Seeram, N. P.; Momin, R. A.; Nair, M. G.; Bourquin, L. D.
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Anthocyanins from tart cherries, Prunus cerasus L. (Rosaceae) cv. Balaton and Montmorency; sweet cherries, Prunus avium L. (Rosaceae); bilberries, Vaccinum myrtillus L. (Ericaceae); blackberries, Rubus sp. (Rosaceae); blueberries var. Jersey, Vaccinium corymbosum L. (Ericaceae); cranberries var. Early Black, Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait. (Ericaceae); elderberries, Sambucus canadensis (Caprifoliaceae); raspberries, Rubus idaeus (Rosaceae); and strawberries var. Honeoye, Fragaria x ananassa Duch. (Rosaceae), were investigated for cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant activities. The presence and levels of cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside 1 and cyanidin-3-rutinoside 2 were determined in the fruits using HPLC. The antioxidant activity of anthocyanins from cherries was comparable to the commercial antioxidants, tert-butylhydroquinone, butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, and superior to vitamin E, at a test concentration of 125 microg/ml. Anthocyanins from raspberries and sweet cherries demonstrated 45% and 47% cyclooxygenase-I and cyclooxygenase-II inhibitory activities, respectively, when assayed at 125 microg/ml. The cyclooxygenase inhibitory activities of anthocyanins from these fruits were comparable to those of ibuprofen and naproxen at 10 microM concentrations. Anthocyanins 1 and 2 are present in both cherries and raspberry. The yields of pure anthocyanins 1 and 2 in 100 g Balaton and Montmorency tart cherries, sweet cherries and raspberries were 21, 16.5; 11, 5; 4.95, 21; and 4.65, 13.5 mg, respectively. Fresh blackberries and strawberries contained only anthocyanin 2 in yields of 24 and 22.5 mg/100 g, respectively. Anthocyanins 1 and 2 were not found in bilberries, blueberries, cranberries or elderberries.


Determination of anthocyanidins in berries and red wine by high-performance liquid chromatography

Nyman, N. A.; Kumpulainen, J. T.
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A high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) method for the determination of anthocyanidins from berries and red wine is described. Delphinidin, cyanidin, petunidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and malvidin contents of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), black currant (Ribes nigrum), strawberry (Fragaria ananassa cv. Jonsok), and a Cabernet sauvignon (Vitis vinifera) red wine were determined. The aglycon forms of the anthocyanins present in the samples were revealed by acid hydrolysis. A reversed phase analytical column was employed to separate the anthocyanidins before identification by diode array detection. The suitability of the method was tested by determining the recovery (95-102% as aglycons and 69-104% from glycosides) for each anthocyanidin. Method repeatability was tested by charting the total aglycon content of two samples over a period of 14 analyses and determining the coefficients of variation (1.41% for bilberry and 2.56% for in-house reference material). The method developed proved thus to be effective for reliable determination of anthocyanidins from freeze-dried berry samples and red wine. The total anthocyanidin content of the tested samples was as follows: in-house reference material, 447 +/- 8 mg/100 g; strawberry, 23.8 +/- 0.4 mg/100 g; black currant, 135 +/- 3 mg/100 g; bilberry, 360 +/- 3 mg/100 g; and Cabernet sauvignon red wine, 26.1 +/- 0.1 mg/100 mL.


Berry phenolics and their antioxidant activity

Kahkonen, M. P.; Hopia, A. I.; Heinonen, M.
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Phenolic profiles of a total of 26 berry samples, together with 2 apple samples, were analyzed without hydrolysis of glycosides with HPLC. The phenolic contents among different berry genera varied considerably. Anthocyanins were the main phenolic constituents in bilberry, bog-whortleberry, and cranberry, but in cowberries, belonging also to the family Ericaceae genus Vaccinium, flavanols and procyanidins predominated. In the family Rosaceae genus Rubus (cloudberry and red raspberry), the main phenolics found were ellagitannins, and in genus Fragaria (strawberry), ellagitannins were the second largest group after anthocyanins. However, phenolic acids were dominant in rowanberries (genus Sorbus) and anthocyanins in chokeberry (genus Aronia). In the family Grossulariaceae genus Ribes (currants and gooseberry), anthocyanins predominated, as well as in crowberries (family Empetraceae genus Empetrum). In apples, hydroxycinnamic acids were the main phenolic subgroup. Extraction methods for berries and apples were studied to produce phenolic extracts with high antioxidant activity. Evaluation of antioxidant activity was performed by autoxidazing methyl linoleate (40 degrees C, in the dark). The extraction method affected remarkably both the phenolic composition and the antioxidant activity, but with statistical analysis the observed activity could not be well explained with the contents of individual phenolic subgroups.


Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) and phenolic and anthocyanin concentrations in fruit and leaf tissues of highbush blueberry

Ehlenfeldt, M. K.; Prior, R. L.
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Antioxidant capacity, as measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), and total phenolic and total anthocyanin contents were evaluated in fruit tissues of 87 highbush blueberry (Vacciniumcorymbosum L.) and species-introgressed highbush blueberry cultivars. ORAC and phenolic levels were evaluated in leaf tissues of the same materials. Average values for ORAC, phenolics, and anthocyanins in fruit were 15.9 ORAC units, 1.79 mg/g (gallic acid equivalents), and 0.95 mg/g (cyanidin-3-glucoside equivalents), respectively. Cv. Rubel had the highest ORAC per gram of fresh weight values, at 31.1 units, and cv. Elliott had the highest values on the basis of ORAC per square centimeter of surface area. In leaf tissue, values for both ORAC and phenolics were significantly higher than in fruit tissue, with mean values of 490 ORAC units and 44.80 mg/g (gallic acid equivalents), respectively. Leaf ORAC had a low, but significant, correlation with fruit phenolics and anthocyanins, but not with fruit ORAC. An analysis of ORAC values versus calculated midparent values in 11 plants from the 87-cultivar group in which all parents were tested suggested that, across cultivars, ORAC inheritance is additive. An investigation of ORAC values in a family of 44 cv. Rubel x Duke seedlings showed negative epistasis for ORAC values, suggesting Rubel may have gene combinations contributing to ORAC that are broken up during hybridization.


Effect of ‘antidiabetis’ herbal preparation on serum glucose and fructosamine in NOD mice

Petlevski, R.; Hadzija, M.; Slijepcevic, M.; Juretic, D.
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The antihyperglycemic effect of the Antidiabetis herbal preparation ((Myrtilli folium (Vaccinium myrtillus L.), Taraxaci radix (Taraxacum officinale Web.), Cichorii radix (Cichorium intybus L.), Juniperi fructus (Juniperus communis L.), Centaurii herba (Centaurium umbellatum Gilib.), Phaseoli pericarpium (Phaseolus vulgaris), Millefollii herba (Achillea millefolium L.), Morii folium (Morus nigra L.), Valeriane radix (Valleriana officinalis L.), Urticae herba et radix (Urtica dioica L.)), patent No. P-9801091 Zagreb, Croatia was investigated. Two extracts were prepared: ethanol extract (extract 1), and ethanol extract from which ethanol was evaporated on a rotatory evaporator at a temperature of 45 degrees C (extract 2). Extract 1 and extract 2 were administered (in experiment 1) to alloxan-induced non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice in the same dose of 20 mg/kg. Blood glucose was determined before, and 10, 30, 60 and 120 min after the preparation administration. Extract 1 and extract 2 decreased the level of blood glucose by 10 and 20%, respectively, of the initial value (at 0 min, mean = 22.6 +/- 8.3 mmol/l). Serum levels of glucose and fructosamine were determined in NOD mice, NOD mice administered extract 2 in a dose of 20 mg/kg of extract 2, and NOD mice administered acarbose in a dose of 25 mg/100 g chow, in order to verify the hypoglycemic action of extract 2 (in experiment 2). Extract 2 and acarbose were admixed to the chow. The duration of treatment was 7 days. Significantly lower glucose (P < 0.05) and fructosamine (P < 0.001) levels were recorded in extract 2 treated NOD mice as compared with NOD mice. Study results showed extract 2 to significantly decrease the level of glucose and fructosamine in alloxan induced NOD mice. Our future studies will be focused on the search of active principles of the extracts.


Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma

Head, K. A.
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Pathophysiological mechanisms of cataract formation include deficient glutathione levels contributing to a faulty antioxidant defense system within the lens of the eye. Nutrients to increase glutathione levels and activity include lipoic acid, vitamins E and C, and selenium. Cataract patients also tend to be deficient in vitamin A and the carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. The B vitamin riboflavin appears to play an essential role as a precursor to flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), a co-factor for glutathione reductase activity. Other nutrients and botanicals, which may benefit cataract patients or help prevent cataracts, include pantethine, folic acid, melatonin, and bilberry. Diabetic cataracts are caused by an elevation of polyols within the lens of the eye catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase. Flavonoids, particularly quercetin and its derivatives, are potent inhibitors of aldose reductase. Glaucoma is characterized by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) in some but not all cases. Some patients with glaucoma have normal IOP but poor circulation, resulting in damage to the optic nerve. Faulty glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis or breakdown in the trabecular meshwork associated with aqueous outflow has also been implicated. Similar to patients with cataracts, those with glaucoma typically have compromised antioxidant defense systems as well. Nutrients that can impact GAGs such as vitamin C and glucosamine sulfate may hold promise for glaucoma treatment. Vitamin C in high doses has been found to lower IOP via its osmotic effect. Other nutrients holding some potential benefit for glaucoma include lipoic acid, vitamin B12, magnesium, and melatonin. Botanicals may offer some therapeutic potential. Ginkgo biloba increases circulation to the optic nerve; forskolin (an extract from Coleus forskohlii) has been used successfully as a topical agent to lower IOP; and intramuscular injections of Salvia miltiorrhiza have shown benefit in improving visual acuity and peripheral vision in people with glaucoma.


Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma

Head, K. A.
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Pathophysiological mechanisms of cataract formation include deficient glutathione levels contributing to a faulty antioxidant defense system within the lens of the eye. Nutrients to increase glutathione levels and activity include lipoic acid, vitamins E and C, and selenium. Cataract patients also tend to be deficient in vitamin A and the carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. The B vitamin riboflavin appears to play an essential role as a precursor to flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), a co-factor for glutathione reductase activity. Other nutrients and botanicals, which may benefit cataract patients or help prevent cataracts, include pantethine, folic acid, melatonin, and bilberry. Diabetic cataracts are caused by an elevation of polyols within the lens of the eye catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase. Flavonoids, particularly quercetin and its derivatives, are potent inhibitors of aldose reductase. Glaucoma is characterized by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) in some but not all cases. Some patients with glaucoma have normal IOP but poor circulation, resulting in damage to the optic nerve. Faulty glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis or breakdown in the trabecular meshwork associated with aqueous outflow has also been implicated. Similar to patients with cataracts, those with glaucoma typically have compromised antioxidant defense systems as well. Nutrients that can impact GAGs such as vitamin C and glucosamine sulfate may hold promise for glaucoma treatment. Vitamin C in high doses has been found to lower IOP via its osmotic effect. Other nutrients holding some potential benefit for glaucoma include lipoic acid, vitamin B12, magnesium, and melatonin. Botanicals may offer some therapeutic potential. Ginkgo biloba increases circulation to the optic nerve; forskolin (an extract from Coleus forskohlii) has been used successfully as a topical agent to lower IOP; and intramuscular injections of Salvia miltiorrhiza have shown benefit in improving visual acuity and peripheral vision in people with glaucoma.


Scavenging capacity of berry crops on superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals, and singlet oxygen

Wang, S. Y.; Jiao, H.
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The antioxidant activities against superoxide radicals (O(2)(*)(-)), hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), hydroxyl radicals (OH(*)), and singlet oxygen (‘O(2)) was evaluated in fruit juice from different cultivars of thornless blackberries (Rubus sp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton), raspberries (Rubus idaeus L. and Rubus occidentalis L.), and strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa Duch.). Among the different cultivars, juice of ‘Hull Thornless’ blackberry, ‘Earliglow’ strawberry, ‘Early Black’ cranberry, ‘Jewel’ raspberry, and ‘Elliot’ blueberry had the highest antioxidant capacity against superoxide radicals (O(2)(*)(-)), hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), hydroxyl radicals (OH(*)), and singlet oxygen (‘O(2)). In general, blackberries had the highest antioxidant capacity inhibition of O(2)(*)(-), H(2)O(2), and OH(*). Strawberry was second best in the antioxidant capacity assay for these same free radicals. With regard to ‘O(2) scavenging activity, strawberry had the highest value, while blackberry was second. Cranberries had the lowest inhibition of H(2)O(2) activity. Meanwhile, blueberries had the lowest antioxidant capacity against OH(*) and ‘O(2). There were interesting and marked differences among the different antioxidants in their abilities to scavenge different reactive oxygen species. beta-Carotene had by far the highest scavenging activity against ‘O(2) but had absolutely no effect on H(2)O(2). Ascorbic acid was the best at inhibiting H(2)O(2) free radical activity. For OH(*), there was a wide range of scavenging capacities from a high of 15.3% with alpha-tocopherol to a low of 0.88% with ascorbic acid. Glutathione had higher O(2)(*)(-) scavenging capacity compared to the other antioxidants.


Oxidative stress protection and vulnerability in aging: putative nutritional implications for intervention

Joseph, J. A.; Denisova, N. A.; Bielinski, D.; Fisher, D. R.; Shukitt-Hale, B.
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Research indicates that vulnerability to oxidative stress (OSV) may increase in aging, suggesting that age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or vascular dementia (VAD) may be superimposed upon a vulnerable neuronal environment. Determinations in cell models have suggested that the enhanced OSV may be the result of, (a) increases in membrane lipids, especially sphingomyelin and the sphingomyelin metabolite, sphingosine-1-phosphate, (b) decreases in glutathione, and (c) CNS distribution of OS-sensitive neuronal muscarinic receptor subtypes (e.g. M1, M2 and M4). These changes appear to enhance, (a) decrements in cellular calcium buffering following KCl-induced depolarization, and (b) cell death under OS conditions. Among the most effective agents that antagonized cellular OSV were the combination of polyphenolics found in fruits (e.g. blueberry extract) with high antioxidant activity. Subsequent experiments using dietary supplementation with fruit (strawberry) or vegetable (spinach) extracts have shown that such extracts are also effective in forestalling and reversing the deleterious effects of behavioral aging in F344 rats. Thus, it appears that the beneficial effects of the polyphenolics found in fruits and vegetables in neuronal aging and behavior may be similar to those seen with respect to carcinogenesis and cardiovascular disease.


Oxidative stress protection and vulnerability in aging: putative nutritional implications for intervention

Joseph, J. A.; Denisova, N. A.; Bielinski, D.; Fisher, D. R.; Shukitt-Hale, B.
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Research indicates that vulnerability to oxidative stress (OSV) may increase in aging, suggesting that age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or vascular dementia (VAD) may be superimposed upon a vulnerable neuronal environment. Determinations in cell models have suggested that the enhanced OSV may be the result of, (a) increases in membrane lipids, especially sphingomyelin and the sphingomyelin metabolite, sphingosine-1-phosphate, (b) decreases in glutathione, and (c) CNS distribution of OS-sensitive neuronal muscarinic receptor subtypes (e.g. M1, M2 and M4). These changes appear to enhance, (a) decrements in cellular calcium buffering following KCl-induced depolarization, and (b) cell death under OS conditions. Among the most effective agents that antagonized cellular OSV were the combination of polyphenolics found in fruits (e.g. blueberry extract) with high antioxidant activity. Subsequent experiments using dietary supplementation with fruit (strawberry) or vegetable (spinach) extracts have shown that such extracts are also effective in forestalling and reversing the deleterious effects of behavioral aging in F344 rats. Thus, it appears that the beneficial effects of the polyphenolics found in fruits and vegetables in neuronal aging and behavior may be similar to those seen with respect to carcinogenesis and cardiovascular disease.


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Looking for more health research?

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Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD is the Nutrition advisor and spokesperson for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a Masters Degree in Nutrition and is the owner of NutriComm Inc., a food communications consulting company specializing in nutrition communications.

Ms. Broihier received a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University and a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Communications from Boston University.