Over 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.

Near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy as a tool for monitoring blueberry osmo-air dehydration process

Sinelli, N.; Casiraghi, E.; Barzaghi, S.; Brambilla, A.; Giovanelli, G.
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Osmo-air dehydration treatments are widely applied to fruits in order to prolong shelf-life, reduce packaging and logistic costs, and improve both sensory and nutritional quality of the end products. In this work osmo-air dehydration was applied to blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), a fruit that is gaining increasing attention due to its high content of dietary antioxidants. In particular, the aim of this study was to investigate the performance of near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy as a tool for monitoring blueberry osmo and air dehydration processes. Blanched blueberries were dipped in sucrose and fructose + glucose osmotic solutions for 24 h, and the osmotic exchanges were determined by mass balances (water loss, solid gain, sugar intake, changes in total phenolics and anthocyanins); NIR spectra were collected in order to study modifications due to the osmotic treatments. Untreated and infused berries were subsequently air-dried at 70°C to final moisture content of 10–14%. During drying chemical, nutritional and structural changes were monitored and NIR spectra were acquired on whole berries, using an optic probe working in diffuse reflectance. Spectral data were standardized, transformed into first derivative and processed by Principal Component Analysis. Results show that NIR spectroscopy was able to follow the osmotic and the air-drying processes and to discriminate untreated and osmo-dehydrated berries. Spectral differences reflect the main molecular modifications associated with water absorption bands due to OH stretch + OH bending and sugar absorption bands due to CH stretch + CH bending and OH stretch + OH bending. In order to investigate the variation of main constituents (sugars and water) involved in the osmo-dehydration process, two-dimensional correlation analysis of spectral data was also carried out. All rights reserved, Elsevier.


Effects of air and freeze drying on phytochemical content of conventional and organic berries

Sablani, S. S.; Andrews, P. K.; Davies, N. M.; Walters, T.; Saez, H.; Bastarrachea, L.
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U.S. sales of organic products continue to climb due to consumer perception of both environmental and health benefits of organic produce. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of air and freeze drying and blanching treatment prior to air drying on phytochemical content of conventional and organic red raspberries and blueberries. Total anthocyanins and phenolics contents and total antioxidant activity were determined in two cultivars of blueberry (“Duke” and “Reka”) and in “Meeker” red raspberry harvested under two different techniques (hand and machine). The phytochemical content was determined after subjecting the berries to air and freeze drying with or without blanching pretreatment. In general, no consistent differences were noted between the phytochemical concentrations in fresh conventional and organic berries. The effect of drying on the retention of phytochemicals depended on drying technique, cultivar, and production system (conventional or organic). Blanching prior to air drying significantly increased the effective moisture diffusivity in both berries, thus reducing the drying time. In general, air drying caused significant reductions in anthocyanins, phenolics, and antioxidant activity in both blueberries and raspberries. Compared to air drying, freeze drying improved retention of phytochemicals during processing and in some cases it even increased the concentration of phytochemicals. The application of blanching resulted in enhanced moisture transport, thus reducing the drying time. The blanching treatment prior to air drying increased the retention of phytochemicals in dried berries. © Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Blueberries and human health: a review of current research

Kalt, W.; Joseph, J. A.; Shukitt-Hale, B.
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Renewed interest in the beneficial health effects of blueberries has led to research in several areas including neuroscience, cardiovascular health, cancer chemoprevention and ageing. This article reviews new directions in blueberry research with emphasis on in vivo studies. The antioxidative activity and polyphenolic constituents of blueberry, and polyphenolic bioavailability and response to processing, are also discussed.


Perspective on the U.S. and global blueberry industry

Brazelton, D.; Strik, B. C.
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The US and global blueberry industry is discussed. Total worldwide blueberry area in 2005 was 69 948 ha for lowbush (all in North America) and 43 765 ha for highbush. Only 50% of lowbush area is harvested annually. Highbush blueberry area has increased by approx. 21% in the last 2 yr. North America accounted for approx. 69% of global planted highbush area, 67% of fresh production and 94% of processed production. Worldwide, 63% of total highbush production was marketed as fresh fruits. The southern hemisphere produced only 3% of the world’s processed blueberries, but 15% of fresh blueberries. Opportunities for growth in this region are large as fresh fruits are exported to the Northern Hemisphere predominantly in the off-season. The market for fresh and processed blueberries continues to look strong.


Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision–a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials

Canter, P. H.; Ernst, E.
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We have systematically reviewed placebo-controlled trials of V. myrtillus-extracted anthocyanosides for evidence of positive effects on night vision. Searches of computerized databases and citations in retrieved articles identified 30 trials with outcome measures relevant to vision in reduced light. Of these, 12 were placebo-controlled. The 4 most recent trials were all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and were negative in outcome. A fifth RCT and 7 non-randomized controlled trials reported positive effects on outcome measures relevant to night vision. Negative outcome was associated with more rigorous methodology but also with lower dose level and extracts from geographically distinct sources that may differ in anthocyanoside composition. Healthy subjects with normal or above average eyesight were tested in 11 of the 12 trials. The hypothesis that V. myrtillus anthocyanosides improves normal night vision is not supported by evidence from rigorous clinical studies. There is a complete absence of rigorous research into the effects of the extract on subjects suffering impaired night vision due to pathological eye conditions. Evidence from methodologically weaker trials and auxiliary evidence from animal studies, trials of synthetic anthocyanosides, and a recent randomized controlled trial of Ribes nigrum (black currant) anthocyanosides may warrant further trials of V. myrtillus anthocyanosides in subjects with impaired night vision.


Potential mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by anthocyanins

Hou, D. X.
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Anthocyanins are the chemical components that give the intense color to many fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, red cabbages and purple sweet potatoes. Epidemiological investigations have indicated that the moderate consumption of anthocyanin products such as red wine or bilberry extract is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and improvement of visual functions. Recently, there is increasing interesting in the pharmaceutical function of anthocyanins. This review summarizes current knowledge on the various molecular evidences of cancer chemoprevention by anthocyanins. These mechanisms can be subdivided into the following aspects: 1) the antioxidation; 2) the molecular mechanisms involved in anticarcinogenesis; 3) the molecular mechanisms involved in the apoptosis induction of tumor cells. Finally, the bioavailability and structure-activity relationship of anthocyanins are also summarized. [References: 85]



Biology of ageing and role of dietary antioxidants

Peng, C.; Wang, X.; Chen, J.; Jiao, R.; Wang, L.
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Interest in relationship between diet and ageing is growing. Research has shown that dietary calorie restriction and some antioxidants extend lifespan in various ageing models. On the one hand, oxygen is essential to aerobic organisms because it is a final electron acceptor in mitochondria. On the other hand, oxygen is harmful because it can continuously generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are believed to be the factors causing ageing of an organism. To remove these ROS in cells, aerobic organisms possess an antioxidant defense system which consists of a series of enzymes, namely, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and glutathione reductase (GR). In addition, dietary antioxidants including ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, alpha-tocopherol, and plant flavonoids are also able to scavenge ROS in cells and therefore theoretically can extend the lifespan of organisms. In this connection, various antioxidants including tea catechins, theaflavins, apple polyphenols, black rice anthocyanins, and blueberry polyphenols have been shown to be capable of extending the lifespan of fruit flies. The purpose of this review is to brief the literature on modern biological theories of ageing and role of dietary antioxidants in ageing as well as underlying mechanisms by which antioxidants can prolong the lifespan with focus on fruit flies as an model.


Edible berries: Bioactive components and their effect on human health

Nile, Shivraj Hariram; Se Won, Park
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The importance of food consumption in relation to human health has increased consumer attention in nutraceutical components and foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Berries are a rich source of a wide variety of non-nutritive, nutritive, and bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, phenolics, anthocyanins, phenolic acids, stilbenes, and tannins, as well as nutritive compounds such as sugars, essential oils, carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals. Bioactive compounds from berries have potent antioxidant, anticancer, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antineurodegenerative properties, both in vitro and in vivo. The following is a comprehensive and critical review on nutritional and non-nutritional bioactive compounds of berries including their absorption, metabolism, and biological activity in relation to their potential effect on human health. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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Omne Ignotum pro Magnifico: characterization of commercial Bilberry extracts to fight adulteration

Giacomelli, L.; Appendino, G.; Franceschi, F.; Togni, S.; Pace, R.
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Thanks to their chemical composition, extracts from the bilberry are commonly used to manufacture food, health products, supplements and cosmetics. However, in this field, as in others, “the process is the product” and a careful characterization of the entire supply and production chain, from purity and quality of raw material to extraction procedures needs to be implemented by using validated, sensitive and specific techniques of analysis. This position paper discusses the importance of the characterization of bilberry extracts, in order to fight adulteration.


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Looking for more health research?

Contact KIT BROIHIER, resident nutrition adviser to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America

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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 and nutrition communications consulting company.

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.