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.

Recent advances in understanding the anti-diabetic actions of dietary flavonoids

Babu, P. V.; Liu, D.; Gilbert, E. R.
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Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that are abundant in fruits and vegetables, and increasing evidence demonstrates a positive relationship between consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and disease prevention. Epidemiological, in vitro and animal studies support the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on glucose and lipid homeostasis. It is encouraging that the beneficial effects of some flavonoids are at physiological concentrations and comparable to clinically-used anti-diabetic drugs; however, clinical research in this field and studies on the anti-diabetic effects of flavonoid metabolites are limited. Flavonoids act on various molecular targets and regulate different signaling pathways in pancreatic beta-cells, hepatocytes, adipocytes and skeletal myofibers. Flavonoids may exert beneficial effects in diabetes by (i) enhancing insulin secretion and reducing apoptosis and promoting proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells; (ii) improving hyperglycemia through regulation of glucose metabolism in hepatocytes; (iii) reducing insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle and fat and (iv) increasing glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and white adipose tissue. This review highlights recent findings on the anti-diabetic effects of dietary flavonoids, including flavan-3-ols, flavanones, flavonols, anthocyanidins, flavones and isoflavones, with particular emphasis on the studies that investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the beneficial effects of the compounds.


Recent advances in understanding the anti-diabetic actions of dietary flavonoids

Babu, P. V.; Liu, D.; Gilbert, E. R.
Show Details

Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that are abundant in fruits and vegetables, and increasing evidence demonstrates a positive relationship between consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and disease prevention. Epidemiological, in vitro and animal studies support the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on glucose and lipid homeostasis. It is encouraging that the beneficial effects of some flavonoids are at physiological concentrations and comparable to clinically-used anti-diabetic drugs; however, clinical research in this field and studies on the anti-diabetic effects of flavonoid metabolites are limited. Flavonoids act on various molecular targets and regulate different signaling pathways in pancreatic beta-cells, hepatocytes, adipocytes and skeletal myofibers. Flavonoids may exert beneficial effects in diabetes by (i) enhancing insulin secretion and reducing apoptosis and promoting proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells; (ii) improving hyperglycemia through regulation of glucose metabolism in hepatocytes; (iii) reducing insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle and fat and (iv) increasing glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and white adipose tissue. This review highlights recent findings on the anti-diabetic effects of dietary flavonoids, including flavan-3-ols, flavanones, flavonols, anthocyanidins, flavones and isoflavones, with particular emphasis on the studies that investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the beneficial effects of the compounds.


The Protective Effects of Bilberry and Lingonberry Extracts against UV Light-Induced Retinal Photoreceptor Cell Damage in Vitro

Ogawa, K.; Tsuruma, K.; Tanaka, J.; Kakino, M.; Kobayashi, S.; Shimazawa, M.; Hara, H.
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Bilberry extract (B-ext) and lingonberry extract (L-ext) are currently used as health supplements. We investigated the protective mechanisms of the B-ext and L-ext against ultraviolet A (UVA)-induced retinal photoreceptor cell damage. Cultured murine photoreceptor (661W) cells were exposed to UVA following treatment with B-ext and L-ext and their main constituents (cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, trans-resveratrol, and procyanidin). B-ext, L-ext, and constituents improved cell viability and suppressed ROS generation. Phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and protein kinase B (Akt) were analyzed by Western blotting. B-ext and cyanidin inhibited phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, and B-ext also inhibited phosphorylation of JNK by UVA. L-ext, trans-resveratrol, and procyanidin alleviated the reduction of phosphorylated Akt levels by UVA. Finally, a cotreatment with B-ext and L-ext showed an additive effect on cell viability. Our findings suggest that both B-ext and L-ext endow protective effects against UVA-induced retinal damage.


The influence of temperature, pH, and water immersion on the high hydrostatic pressure inactivation of GI.1 and GII.4 human noroviruses

Li, X.; Chen, H.; Kingsley, D. H.
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Detection of human norovirus (HuNoV) usually relies on molecular biology techniques, such as qRT-PCR. Since histo-blood group antigens (HBGAs) are the functional receptors for HuNoV, HuNoV can bind to porcine gastric mucin (PGM), which contains HBGA-like antigens. In this study, PGM-conjugated magnetic beads were used to collect and quantify potentially infectious HuNoV strains GI.1 and GII.4 treated by high hydrostatic pressure (HHP). Both GI.1 and GII.4 strains used in this study showed increasing pressure sensitivity as judged by loss of PGM binding with decreasing temperature over a range of 1 to 35 degrees C. Both GI.1 and GII.4 were more resistant to pressure at pH4 than at neutral pH. Because GI.1 was significantly more resistant to pressure than GII.4, it was used to evaluate HuNoV pressure inactivation in blueberries. GI.1 on dry blueberries was very resistant to pressure while immersion of blueberries in water during pressure treatments substantially enhanced the inactivation. For example, a 2 min-600 MPa treatment of dry blueberries at 1 and 21 degrees C resulted in <1-log reductions while a 2.7-log reduction of GI.1 was achieved by a treatment at 500 MPa for 2 min at 1 degrees C when blueberries were immersed in water. In total, this novel study provides unique information for designing pressure processing parameters (pressure, temperature, and time) and product formulations (such as pH) to inactivate HuNoV in high-risk foods such as berries.


Effects of sea buckthorn and bilberry on serum metabolites differ according to baseline metabolic profiles in overweight women: a randomized crossover trial

Larmo, P. S.; Kangas, A. J.; Soininen, P.; Lehtonen, H. M.; Suomela, J. P.; Yang, B.; Viikari, J.; Ala-Korpela, M.; Kallio, H. P.
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BACKGROUND: Berries are associated with health benefits. Little is known about the effect of baseline metabolome on the overall metabolic responses to berry intake. OBJECTIVE: We studied the effects of berries on serum metabolome. DESIGN: Eighty overweight women completed this randomized crossover study. During the interventions of 30 d, subjects consumed dried sea buckthorn berries (SBs), sea buckthorn oil (SBo), sea buckthorn phenolics ethanol extract mixed with maltodextrin (SBe+MD) (1:1), or frozen bilberries. Metabolic profiles were quantified from serum samples by using (1)H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. RESULTS: All interventions induced a significant (P < 0.001-0.003) effect on the overall metabolic profiles. The effect was observed both in participants who had a metabolic profile that reflected higher cardiometabolic risk at baseline (group B: P = 0.001-0.008) and in participants who had a lower-risk profile (group A: P < 0.001-0.009). Although most of the changes in individual metabolites were not statistically significant after correction for multiplicity, clear trends were observed. SB-induced effects were mainly on serum triglycerides and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and its subclasses, which decreased in metabolic group B. SBo induced a decreasing trend in serum total, intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and subfractions of IDL and LDL in group B. During the SBe+MD treatment, VLDL fractions and serum triglycerides increased. Bilberries caused beneficial changes in serum lipids and lipoproteins in group B, whereas the opposite was true in group A. CONCLUSION: Berry intake has overall metabolic effects, which depend on the cardiometabolic risk profile at baseline. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01860547.


Differential modulation of human intestinal bifidobacterium populations after consumption of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink

Guglielmetti, S.; Fracassetti, D.; Taverniti, V.; Del Bo, C.; Vendrame, S.; Klimis-Zacas, D.; Arioli, S.; Riso, P.; Porrini, M.
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Bifidobacteria are gaining increasing interest as health-promoting bacteria. Nonetheless, the genus comprises several species, which can exert different effects on human host. Previous studies showed that wild blueberry drink consumption could selectively increase intestinal bifidobacteria, suggesting an important role for the polyphenols and fiber present in wild blueberries. This study evaluated the modulation of the most common and abundant bifidobacterial taxonomic groups inhabiting the human gut in the same fecal samples. The analyses carried out showed that B. adolescentis, B. breve, B. catenulatum/pseudocatelulatum, and B. longum subsp. longum were always present in the group of subjects enrolled, whereas B. bifidum and B. longum subsp. infantis were not. Furthermore, it was found that the most predominant bifidobacterial species were B. longum subsp. longum and B. adolescentis. The results obtained revealed a high interindividual variability; however, a significant increase of B. longum subsp. infantis cell concentration was observed in the feces of volunteers after the wild blueberry drink treatment. This bifidobacterial group was shown to possess immunomodulatory abilities and to relieve symptoms and promote the regression of several gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, an increased cell concentration of B. longum subsp. infantis in the human gut could be considered of potential health benefit. In conclusion, wild blueberry consumption resulted in a specific bifidogenic effect that could positively affect certain populations of bifidobacteria with demonstrated health-promoting properties.


Differential modulation of human intestinal bifidobacterium populations after consumption of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink

Guglielmetti, S.; Fracassetti, D.; Taverniti, V.; Del Bo, C.; Vendrame, S.; Klimis-Zacas, D.; Arioli, S.; Riso, P.; Porrini, M.
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Bifidobacteria are gaining increasing interest as health-promoting bacteria. Nonetheless, the genus comprises several species, which can exert different effects on human host. Previous studies showed that wild blueberry drink consumption could selectively increase intestinal bifidobacteria, suggesting an important role for the polyphenols and fiber present in wild blueberries. This study evaluated the modulation of the most common and abundant bifidobacterial taxonomic groups inhabiting the human gut in the same fecal samples. The analyses carried out showed that B. adolescentis, B. breve, B. catenulatum/pseudocatelulatum, and B. longum subsp. longum were always present in the group of subjects enrolled, whereas B. bifidum and B. longum subsp. infantis were not. Furthermore, it was found that the most predominant bifidobacterial species were B. longum subsp. longum and B. adolescentis. The results obtained revealed a high interindividual variability; however, a significant increase of B. longum subsp. infantis cell concentration was observed in the feces of volunteers after the wild blueberry drink treatment. This bifidobacterial group was shown to possess immunomodulatory abilities and to relieve symptoms and promote the regression of several gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, an increased cell concentration of B. longum subsp. infantis in the human gut could be considered of potential health benefit. In conclusion, wild blueberry consumption resulted in a specific bifidogenic effect that could positively affect certain populations of bifidobacteria with demonstrated health-promoting properties.


Differential modulation of human intestinal bifidobacterium populations after consumption of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink

Guglielmetti, S.; Fracassetti, D.; Taverniti, V.; Del Bo, C.; Vendrame, S.; Klimis-Zacas, D.; Arioli, S.; Riso, P.; Porrini, M.
Show Details

Bifidobacteria are gaining increasing interest as health-promoting bacteria. Nonetheless, the genus comprises several species, which can exert different effects on human host. Previous studies showed that wild blueberry drink consumption could selectively increase intestinal bifidobacteria, suggesting an important role for the polyphenols and fiber present in wild blueberries. This study evaluated the modulation of the most common and abundant bifidobacterial taxonomic groups inhabiting the human gut in the same fecal samples. The analyses carried out showed that B. adolescentis, B. breve, B. catenulatum/pseudocatelulatum, and B. longum subsp. longum were always present in the group of subjects enrolled, whereas B. bifidum and B. longum subsp. infantis were not. Furthermore, it was found that the most predominant bifidobacterial species were B. longum subsp. longum and B. adolescentis. The results obtained revealed a high interindividual variability; however, a significant increase of B. longum subsp. infantis cell concentration was observed in the feces of volunteers after the wild blueberry drink treatment. This bifidobacterial group was shown to possess immunomodulatory abilities and to relieve symptoms and promote the regression of several gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, an increased cell concentration of B. longum subsp. infantis in the human gut could be considered of potential health benefit. In conclusion, wild blueberry consumption resulted in a specific bifidogenic effect that could positively affect certain populations of bifidobacteria with demonstrated health-promoting properties.


Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) on cisplatin induced ovarian damage in rat

Pandir, D.; Kara, O.; Kara, M.
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Cisplatin is one of the most effective chemotherapeutic agents but injury may occur at higher doses. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of bilberry on cisplatin induced toxic effects in rat ovary. Twenty-one female Wistar-Albino rats were utilized to form three groups: In group 1 (control group), each rat received intraperitoneal injection of 1 mL of 0.9 % NaCl saline solution during 10-days. In group 2 (cisplatin group), a single dose of 7.5 mg/kg b.w. cisplatin was given. In group 3 (cisplatin + bilberry group), a single dose of 7.5 mg/kg cisplatin and bilberry at 200 mg/kg b.w. were given for 10 days. Ovaries were surgically removed in all groups and prepared for biochemical and light microscopic investigations at the examination times. Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels and activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) of tissue samples were measured. Histopathological damages in cisplatin administrated rats were seen such as severe edema, vascular congestion, hemorrhage and follicular degeneration in the ovary tissue. Moderate pathological alterations were observed in rats treated with bilberry plus cisplatin. Cisplatin administration significantly increased MDA production and decreased SOD, CAT, GPx and GST activities in the ovarian tissue when compared to the control group (p < 0.05). Cisplatin + bilberry administration increased antioxidant enzymes activities and reduced MDA levels. Bilberry administration seems to reduce the cisplatin induced ovarian toxicity thus it alleviates free radical damage. But it dose not protect completely rat ovary tissues.


Blueberries prevent the effect of intermittent hypobaric hypoxia in rat epididymis

Zepeda, A. B.; Calaf, G. M.; Figueroa, C. A.; Farias, J. G.
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Intermittent hypobaric hypoxia (IHH) induced a decrease in sperm count and oxidative damage in epididymis. We have previously demonstrated that a blueberry-enriched polyphenol extract (BB-4) reduced the adverse effects of oxidative stress in rat testis under hypobaric hypoxia. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether BB-4 could reverse oxidative stress in epididymis. To evaluate the protective role of BB-4 in epididymis, male rats were exposed to IHH. Lipid peroxidation, (LPO) expression and activity of glutathione reductase (GR) were evaluated. Our results showed a reduction in LPO and a decrease in GR activity in rat epididymis exposed to IHH. These results suggest that BB-4 can prevent the effects of IHH in rat epididymis.


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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 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.