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.

Antimicrobial Effects of Blueberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry Aqueous Extracts and their Effects on Virulence Gene Expression in Vibrio cholerae

Khalifa, H. O.; Kamimoto, M.; Shimamoto, T.; Shimamoto, T.
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The antimicrobial effects of aqueous extracts of blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry on 13 pathogenic bacteria were evaluated. The minimum inhibitory concentrations and minimum bactericidal concentrations of the extracts were determined before and after neutralization to pH 7.03 +/- 0.15. Both Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria were selectively inhibited by the non-neutralized berries. Blueberry was the best inhibitor, and Vibrio and Listeria were the most sensitive bacteria. After neutralization, blueberry affected only Vibrio and Listeria, whereas the antimicrobial activities of raspberry and strawberry were abolished. The total contents of phenolics, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins in the extracts were measured with colorimetric methods and were highest in strawberry, followed by raspberry, and then blueberry. We also studied the effects of sub-bactericidal concentrations of the three berry extracts on virulence gene expression in Vibrio cholerae. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction revealed that the three berry extracts effectively repressed the transcription of the tcpA gene. Raspberry also repressed the transcription of the ctxA gene, whereas blueberry and strawberry did not. However, the three berry extracts did not affect the transcription of toxT. These results suggest that the three berry extracts exert potent antimicrobial effects and inhibit the expression of the virulence factors of V. cholerae. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Antihypertensive activity of blueberries fermented by Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313 and effects on the gut microbiota in healthy rats

Ahren, I. L.; Xu, J.; Onning, G.; Olsson, C.; Ahrne, S.; Molin, G.
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BACKGROUND & AIMS: The aim of the present animal study was to examine the anti-hypertensive capacity of two probiotic products combining blueberries and the tannase producing probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313 and to investigate if such an effect is linked to a change in the gut microbiota. METHODS: Male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into six groups of nine each. Three groups of the animals were treated with N(G)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) in the drinking water (40 mg/L) to induce a hypertensive state, and the other three groups were not treated with L-NAME (healthy rats). Two blueberry products differing in their phenolic acid content were tested and each rat received 2 g/day of the fermented blueberry powders for 4 weeks. The effects of the study products on the blood pressure, blood lipids, inflammatory markers, organ weights as well as caecal microbiota of the healthy (non-L-NAME-treated) rats were analyzed. RESULTS: After four weeks, healthy rats consuming freeze dried fermented blueberries with probiotics had a significant reduction in blood pressure compared to the control rats. In rats with L-NAME induced hypertension there was a significant reduction of the blood pressure after two weeks treatment. The probiotic product with a higher content of phenolic acids reduced ALAT in the healthy rats. Furthermore, ingestion of the probiotic blueberry products resulted in changes of the gut microbiota in the healthy rats. CONCLUSIONS: Blueberries fermented with the tannase producing bacteria L. plantarum DSM 15313 have anti-hypertensive properties and may reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.


Antihypertensive activity of blueberries fermented by Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313 and effects on the gut microbiota in healthy rats

Ahren, I. L.; Xu, J.; Onning, G.; Olsson, C.; Ahrne, S.; Molin, G.
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BACKGROUND & AIMS: The aim of the present animal study was to examine the anti-hypertensive capacity of two probiotic products combining blueberries and the tannase producing probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313 and to investigate if such an effect is linked to a change in the gut microbiota. METHODS: Male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into six groups of nine each. Three groups of the animals were treated with N(G)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) in the drinking water (40 mg/L) to induce a hypertensive state, and the other three groups were not treated with L-NAME (healthy rats). Two blueberry products differing in their phenolic acid content were tested and each rat received 2 g/day of the fermented blueberry powders for 4 weeks. The effects of the study products on the blood pressure, blood lipids, inflammatory markers, organ weights as well as caecal microbiota of the healthy (non-L-NAME-treated) rats were analyzed. RESULTS: After four weeks, healthy rats consuming freeze dried fermented blueberries with probiotics had a significant reduction in blood pressure compared to the control rats. In rats with L-NAME induced hypertension there was a significant reduction of the blood pressure after two weeks treatment. The probiotic product with a higher content of phenolic acids reduced ALAT in the healthy rats. Furthermore, ingestion of the probiotic blueberry products resulted in changes of the gut microbiota in the healthy rats. CONCLUSIONS: Blueberries fermented with the tannase producing bacteria L. plantarum DSM 15313 have anti-hypertensive properties and may reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.


Dietary phenolics against colorectal cancer–From promising preclinical results to poor translation into clinical trials: Pitfalls and future needs

Nunez-Sanchez, M. A.; Gonzalez-Sarrias, A.; Romo-Vaquero, M.; Garcia-Villalba, R.; Selma, M. V.; Tomas-Barberan, F. A.; Garcia-Conesa, M. T.; Espin, J. C.
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Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains a major cause of cancer death worldwide. Over 70% of CRC cases are sporadic and related to lifestyle. Epidemiological studies inversely correlate CRC incidence with the intake of fruits and vegetables but not with their phenolic content. Preclinical studies using in vitro (cell lines) and animal models of CRC have reported anticancer effects for dietary phenolics through the regulation of different markers and signaling pathways. Herein, we review and contrast the evidence between preclinical studies and clinical trials (patients with CRC or at risk, familial adenopolyposis or aberrant crypt foci) investigating the protective effects of curcumin, resveratrol, isoflavones, green tea extracts (epigallocatechin gallate), black raspberry powder (anthocyanins and ellagitannins), bilberry extract (anthocyanins), ginger extracts (gingerol derivatives), and pomegranate extracts (ellagitannins and ellagic acid). To date, curcumin is the most promising polyphenol as possible future adjuvant in CRC management. Overall, the clinical evidence of dietary phenolics against CRC is still weak and the amounts needed to exert some effects largely exceed common dietary doses. We discuss here the possible reasons behind the gap between preclinical and clinical research (inconsistence of results, lack of clinical endpoints, etc.), and provide an outlook and a roadmap to approach this topic.


A combination of isolated phytochemicals and botanical extracts lowers diastolic blood pressure in a randomized controlled trial of hypertensive subjects

Biesinger, S.; Michaels, H. A.; Quadros, A. S.; Qian, Y.; Rabovsky, A. B.; Badger, R. S.; Jalili, T.
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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Isolated phytochemicals have been shown to reduce blood pressure; however, combinations of phytochemicals have rarely been tested in humans. We hypothesized that a combination of extracts from grape seed and skin (330 mg), green tea (100 mg), resveratrol (60 mg) and a blend of quercetin, ginkgo biloba and bilberry (60 mg) would reduce blood pressure (BP) in hypertensive subjects. SUBJECTS/METHODS: Eighteen individuals meeting BP requirements (130 mm Hg systolic or 85 mm Hg diastolic) and criteria for metabolic syndrome were enrolled in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01106170). The 28-day placebo and supplement arms were separated by a 2-week washout period, and 14 -h daytime ambulatory BP was assessed at baseline and at the end point of each arm. RESULTS: BP was not altered after placebo. After supplement treatment, diastolic pressure was reduced by 4.4 mm Hg (P=0.024, 95% CI, 0.6-8.1), systolic pressure was unchanged and mean arterial pressure trended (P=0.052) toward reduction. Serum angiotensin-converting enzyme activity was similar between placebo and supplement arms, but urinary nitrate and nitrite concentrations were significantly increased (P=0.022) after supplementation. Human aortic endothelial cells treated with metabolites of the polyphenols used in the human supplement trial had a significant increase (P=0.005) in insulin-stimulated eNOS phosphorylation and greater (P<0.001) accumulation of nitrates/nitrites. CONCLUSIONS: Our clinical and in vitro data support the theory that this combination of polyphenols reduced diastolic pressure by potentiating eNOS activation and nitric oxide production. Such supplements may have clinical relevance as stand-alone or adjunct therapy to help reduce BP.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication, 10 June 2015; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2015.88.


Effects of blueberry supplementation on measures of functional mobility in older adults

Schrager, M. A.; Hilton, J.; Gould, R.; Kelly, V. E.
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Limited functional mobility in older adults has been associated with declines in tests of motor, psychomotor, and executive function. Animal studies have demonstrated reversals in indices of motor and psychomotor function via supplementation with polyphenolic-rich foods such as blueberries. The purpose of this study was to examine whether 6 weeks of daily consumption of 2 cups of frozen blueberries affects functional mobility in older adults. Pre- and post-intervention assessments of grip strength, simple reaction time, adaptive gait, and executive function were completed for older adults (age >60 years) partially randomly assigned to a blueberry (BB) supplementation or a carrot juice drink control (CAR) group. Paired t tests were used to assess within-group effects for outcome variables in each supplementation group, and a mixed-model analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to determine group (CAR vs. BB) differences. Mixed-model analysis indicated that the BB group demonstrated significant improvements relative to the CAR group in performance (i.e., number of step errors) of a challenging dual-task adaptive gait test that were independent of differences in gait speed. Within only the BB group, significant improvements were also seen in 3 other measures (i.e., usual gait speed; number of step errors during single-task adaptive gait; and gait speed during dual-task adaptive gait). These preliminary findings support the hypothesis that blueberry supplementation may provide an effective countermeasure to age-related declines in functional mobility and serve as justification for an expansion to larger trials to more fully assess this nonpharmacologic approach to maintaining optimal mobility and independence.


The effects of wild blueberry consumption on plasma markers and gene expression related to glucose metabolism in the obese zucker rat

Vendrame, S.; Zhao, A.; Merrow, T.; Klimis-Zacas, D.
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Impaired fasting blood glucose is one of the landmark signs of metabolic syndrome, together with hyperinsulinemia, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and a chronic proinflammatory, pro-oxidative, and prothrombotic environment. This study investigates the effect of wild blueberry (WB) consumption on blood glucose levels and other parameters involved in glucose metabolism in the obese Zucker rat (OZR), an experimental model of metabolic syndrome. Sixteen OZRs and 16 lean littermate controls (lean Zucker rat [LZR]) were fed an 8% enriched WB diet or a control (C) diet for 8 weeks. Plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, glycated hemoglobin GHbA1c, resistin, and retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) were measured. Expression of the resistin, RBP4, and glucose transporter GLUT4 genes was also determined both in the liver and the abdominal adipose tissue (AAT). Plasma glycated hemoglobin HbA1c, RBP4, and resistin concentrations were significantly lower in OZRs following the WB diet (-20%, -22%, and -27%, respectively, compared to C diet, P<.05). Following WB consumption, resistin expression was significantly downregulated in the liver of both OZRs and LZRs (-28% and -61%, respectively, P<.05), while RBP4 expression was significantly downregulated in the AAT of both OZRs and LZRs (-87% and -43%, respectively, P<.05). All other markers were not significantly affected following WB consumption. In conclusion, WB consumption normalizes some markers related to glucose metabolism in the OZR model of metabolic syndrome, but has no effect on fasting blood glucose or insulin concentrations.


Anthocyanins-rich extract of wild Chinese blueberry protects glucolipotoxicity-induced INS832/13 beta-cell against dysfunction and death

Liu, J.; Gao, F.; Ji, B.; Wang, R.; Yang, J.; Liu, H.; Zhou, F.
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As commonly observed events in diabetic patients, glucolipotoxicity induces oxidative stress, apoptosis and functional defects in beta-cells. Anthocyanins are well investigated as strong antioxidants and modulators for metabolic syndromes. Therefore, this study examined the protective effects of anthocyanins-rich extracts (BAE) from wild Chinese blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) against glucolipotoxicity in beta-cells. Results showed that INS832/13 beta-cells subjected to glucolipotoxicity were significantly decreased (p < 0.05) in cell survival rate, which were alleviated by BAE and metformin treatments. Both BAE and metformin reduced reactive oxidative species and improved the antioxidant defense system. Moreover, BAE were effective in reducing intracellular triglycerides (TG) level, restoring intracellular insulin content, lowering basal insulin secretion (BIS) and increasing glucose-stimulated insulin secretion which in turn resulted in an elevated insulin secretion index. However, metformin only demonstrated marginal effect on secretion dysfunction and had no effect (p > 0.05) on BIS or TG. Additionally, TG levels reduced by BAE treatment were correlated with BIS (p < 0.01, r = 0.9755). This study has for the first time demonstrated that anthocyanin enriched extract of wild Chinese blueberry could effectively protect beta-cells against glucolipotoxicity in vitro. These results implied the potential efficacy of BAE as a complementary measure for diabetes intervention.


Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers

Ozawa, Y.; Kawashima, M.; Inoue, S.; Inagaki, E.; Suzuki, A.; Ooe, E.; Kobayashi, S.; Tsubota, K.
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OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of a dietary supplement containing bilberry extract (BE) on eye fatigue induced by acute video display terminal (VDT) loads. DESIGN AND SETTING: A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed from August 2012 to February 2013 in the Medical Corporation Jico-kai Yagi Hospital, and the Shinyokohama Shinoharaguchi Orthopedic Surgery and Dermatology Clinic, in Japan. PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred eighty-one office workers aged 20-40 years that used VDTs were screened by critical flicker fusion (CFF) and near point accommodation (NPA). INTERVENTION: The participants were randomized to either a BE (480 mg/day) or placebo (vehicle) group, and took allocated capsule, daily, for 8 weeks. MEASUREMENTS: The CFF, NPA, contrast visual acuity, functional visual acuity, keratoconjunctival epithelial damage, and fluorescein tear film break-up time were examined, and 18 subjective symptoms of eye fatigue were evaluated by questionnaire. Adverse events were reported via medical interviews. Data were collected both before and after VDT load at baseline, and 4, and 8 weeks after daily supplementation with either BE or placebo. RESULTS: Of 281 participants screened, 88 having relatively lower levels of CFF and NPA were enrolled in the study. Of these, 37 control and 43 BE group subjects completed the study. The VDT load-induced reduction in CFF was alleviated after 8 weeks of BE supplementation (95% confidence interval, 0.10-1.60; p=0.023), in contrast to placebo supplementation, while NPA variation was not. Of the subjective symptoms of eye fatigue, VDT load-induced ocular fatigue sensation, ocular pain, eye heaviness, uncomfortable sensation, and foreign body sensation were mitigated more in the BE group than in the control group, at week 8 (p<0.05). There were no severe adverse events in either group. CONCLUSIONS: BE supplementation improved some of the objective and subjective parameters of eye fatigue induced by VDT loads.


Evaluation of protective effect of freeze-dried strawberry, grape, and blueberry powder on acrylamide toxicity in mice

Zhao, M.; Liu, X.; Luo, Y.; Guo, H.; Hu, X.; Chen, F.
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Berries are dietary plants with high antioxidant activity. The aim of this study is to investigate the protective effect of berries (strawberry, grape, and blueberry) against the acrylamide (AA)-induced general toxicity, genotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity in mice model, respectively. Mice were treated with 50 mg/kg b.w./day AA intraperitoneal injection for 5 d after feeding control diet or diet containing freeze-dried strawberry, grape, and blueberry powder. The results showed that AA induced a significant general toxicity, genotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity in mice. Compared with the control diet, the diets containing berries could reverse the AA-induced alterations in liver antioxidant enzymes activities (P < 0.05). Moreover, the AA-induced genotoxicity could be prevented by the diet containing berries. The DNA damage in the lymphocyte and liver cells and the micronucleus formation in bone marrow cell were significantly alleviated (P < 0.05). Meanwhile, the mice fed with diets containing berries showed a recovery in the sperm count, the sperm activity rate, sperm motility parameters, and the abnormal sperm rate (P < 0.05). Berry powders have remarkable intervention against the AA-induced general toxicity, genotoxicity, reproductive toxicity. Abundant phenolics, especially anthocyanins, may contribute to the intervention.


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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.