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.

Impact of processing on the bioavailability and vascular effects of blueberry (poly)phenols

Rodriguez-Mateos, A.; Pino-Garcia, R. D.; George, T. W.; Vidal-Diez, A.; Heiss, C.; Spencer, J. P.
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SCOPE: Blueberries are a rich source of flavonoids and phenolic acids. Currently, little information is available regarding the impact of processing on the bioavailability and the bioactivity of blueberry (poly)phenols. METHODS AND RESULTS: In a randomized, controlled crossover trial, ten healthy volunteers consumed (a) blueberry-containing baked products, (b) an unprocessed blueberry drink containing the same amount of freeze-dried blueberry powder as used in the baked products, and (c) matched control baked products. Endothelial function was measured as flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and plasma samples taken at baseline and at 1, 2, 4, and 6 h postconsumption. Although processing did not significantly change the total (poly)phenolic amount, the processed products contained significantly less anthocyanins (-42%), more chlorogenic acid (23%), no flavanol nonamers or decamers, and significantly more flavanol dimers and trimers (36% and 28%, respectively). FMD increased after 1, 2, and 6 h consumption of the baked products to a similar degree as the unprocessed blueberries, despite significant differences in the levels of individual plasma metabolites. No changes were observed after the consumption of the control product. CONCLUSION: Careful processing can preserve important biological activities of blueberries despite changing the blueberry (poly)phenol composition and plasma metabolite profile.


Practical application of flavonoid-poor menu meals to the study of the bioavailability of bilberry anthocyanins in human subjects

Sakakibara, H.; Ichikawa, Y.; Tajima, S.; Makino, Y.; Wakasugi, Y.; Shimoi, K.; Kobayashi, S.; Kumazawa, S.; Goda, T.
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Practical application of flavonoid-poor menus was evaluated on the bioavailability of anthocyanins as model flavonoids. Detectable amounts of flavonoids were not found in plasma and urine collected from 13 participants, who took the menus. After ingesting bilberry anthocyanins (919 mumol), average plasma AUC0-6h, Cmax, Tmax values and urinary recovery were 386.0 nmol h/mL, 139.1 nM, 1.31 h and 0.21%, respectively.


Anthocyanins from fruit juices improve the antioxidant status of healthy young female volunteers without affecting anti-inflammatory parameters: results from the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over ANTHONIA (ANTHOcyanins in Nutrition Investigation Alliance) study

Kuntz, S.; Kunz, C.; Herrmann, J.; Borsch, C. H.; Abel, G.; Frohling, B.; Dietrich, H.; Rudloff, S.
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Anthocyanins (ACN) can exert beneficial health effects not only through their antioxidative potential but also through modulation of inflammatory parameters that play a major role in CVD. A randomised cross-over study was carried out to investigate the effects of ACN-rich beverage ingestion on oxidation- and inflammation-related parameters in thirty healthy female volunteers. The participants consumed 330 ml of beverages (placebo, juice and smoothie with 8.9 (SD 0.3), 983.7 (SD 37) and 840.9 (SD 10) mg/l ACN, respectively) over 14 d. Before and after each intervention, blood and 24 h urine samples were collected. Plasma superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activities increased significantly after ACN-rich beverage ingestion (P<0.001), whereas after placebo juice ingestion no increase could be observed. Plasma glutathione peroxidase and erythrocyte SOD activities were not affected. An increase in Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity could also be observed after juice (P<0.001) and smoothie (P<0.01) ingestion. The plasma and urinary concentrations of malondialdehyde decreased after ACN-rich beverage ingestion (P<0.001), whereas those of 8-OH-2-deoxyguanosine as well as inflammation-related parameters (IL-2, -6, -8 and -10, C-reactive peptide, soluble cluster of differentiation 40 ligand, TNF-alpha, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and soluble cell adhesion molecules) were not affected. Thus, ingestion of ACN-rich beverages improves antioxidant enzyme activities and plasma antioxidant capacity, thus protecting the body against oxidative stress, a hallmark of ongoing atherosclerosis.


Antioxidative Activity of Blueberry Leaf Extract Prevents High-fat Diet-induced Obesity in C57BL/6 Mice

Lee, I. C.; Kim, D. Y.; Choi, B. Y.
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BACKGROUND: Health beneficial effects of blueberry have been well documented. Obesity is health hazard that is associated with metabolic abnormalities. We investigated the effect of blueberry leaf extract (BBLE) on high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity in C57BL/6J mice. METHODS: C57BL/6 mice were fed HFD with or without BBLE for 10 weeks. Body weight, serum parameter, and adipose tissues morphology were assessed. The expression of mRNA associated with adipogenesis was measured using real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. RESULTS: Administration of BBLE to mice challenged with HFD significantly decreased the body weight gain, the levels of plasma triglyceride (TG) and liver lipid peroxidation, and reduced the adipocyte size and improved hepatic status compared with the group treated with HFD only. BBLE treatment significantly improved glucose control compared with the HFD group. Moreover, BBLE showed an inhibitory effect on adipocyte differentiation in obese mice together with significant decrease in the lipid accumulation by downregulating gene expression of adipocyte-specific transcription factors, such as peroxisome proliferation-activity receptor and acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase and upregulating the mRNA expression of adiponectin, which are critical for adipogenesis. CONCLUSION: BBLE suppressed the body weight gain in the HFD-fed C57BL/6 mice. Intake of BBLE reduced body weight in HFD-fed mice by 20%. Furthermore, BBLE supplementation significantly decreased the TG level in the liver and inhibited leptin secretion. BBLE supplementation also improved insulin resistance. Therefore, BBLE is a possible agent to prevent obesity.


Immunomodulatory Effect of a Wild Blueberry Anthocyanin-Rich Extract in Human Caco-2 Intestinal Cells

Taverniti, V.; Fracassetti, D.; Del Bo, C.; Lanti, C.; Minuzzo, M.; Klimis-Zacas, D.; Riso, P.; Guglielmetti, S.
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Intestinal inflammation is a natural process crucial for the maintenance of gut functioning. However, abnormal or prolonged inflammatory responses may lead to the onset of chronic degenerative diseases, typically treated by means of pharmacological interventions. Dietary strategies for the prevention of inflammation are a safer alternative to pharmacotherapy. Anthocyanins and other polyphenols have been documented to display anti-inflammatory activity. In the present study, three bioactive fractions (anthocyanin, phenolic, and water-soluble fractions) were extracted from a wild blueberry powder. The Caco-2 intestinal model was used to test the immunomodulatory effect of the above fractions. Only the anthocyanin-rich fraction reduced the activation of NF-kappaB, induced by IL-1beta in intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cells. Specifically, concentrations of 50 and 100 mug mL-1 decreased NF-kappaB activation by 68.9 and 85.2%, respectively (p


The Protective Effects of a Polyphenol-Enriched Protein Powder on Exercise-Induced Susceptibility to Virus Infection

Ahmed, M.; Henson, D. A.; Sanderson, M. C.; Nieman, D. C.; Gillitt, N. D.; Lila, M. A.
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Prolonged and intensive exercise induces transient immunosuppression and is associated with an increased risk and severity of infections. The goal of this study was to characterize the antiviral and antibacterial properties of the bioactive metabolites of a blueberry-green tea-polyphenol soy protein complex (PSPC) in the serum of supplemented subjects during a 3-day intensified training period. Long-distance runners, randomly divided into two groups, ingested 40 g/day PSPC or placebo (soy protein and colorings) for 17 days, with a 3-day running period inserted at day 14. Blood serum samples were collected pre-14 days and post-14 days supplementation, and immediately and 14 h after the third day of running. The post-exercise serum from both groups significantly promoted the growth of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus in culture by 20-70%, but returned to normal levels following recovery. Furthermore, the serum from subjects ingesting PSPC did not display antibacterial properties at any time point. In contrast, there was a significant difference in the ability of serum from PSPC-supplemented versus placebo-supplemented athletes to protect cells in culture from killing by vesicular stomatitis virus following strenuous exercise. In addition, the serum of subjects who ingested PSPC significantly delayed an exercise-induced increase in virus replication. These results indicate that polyphenol complexes containing blueberry and green tea have the potential to protect athletes from virus infections following rigorous exercise. Copyright (c) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


The Protective Effects of a Polyphenol-Enriched Protein Powder on Exercise-Induced Susceptibility to Virus Infection

Ahmed, M.; Henson, D. A.; Sanderson, M. C.; Nieman, D. C.; Gillitt, N. D.; Lila, M. A.
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Prolonged and intensive exercise induces transient immunosuppression and is associated with an increased risk and severity of infections. The goal of this study was to characterize the antiviral and antibacterial properties of the bioactive metabolites of a blueberry-green tea-polyphenol soy protein complex (PSPC) in the serum of supplemented subjects during a 3-day intensified training period. Long-distance runners, randomly divided into two groups, ingested 40 g/day PSPC or placebo (soy protein and colorings) for 17 days, with a 3-day running period inserted at day 14. Blood serum samples were collected pre-14 days and post-14 days supplementation, and immediately and 14 h after the third day of running. The post-exercise serum from both groups significantly promoted the growth of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus in culture by 20-70%, but returned to normal levels following recovery. Furthermore, the serum from subjects ingesting PSPC did not display antibacterial properties at any time point. In contrast, there was a significant difference in the ability of serum from PSPC-supplemented versus placebo-supplemented athletes to protect cells in culture from killing by vesicular stomatitis virus following strenuous exercise. In addition, the serum of subjects who ingested PSPC significantly delayed an exercise-induced increase in virus replication. These results indicate that polyphenol complexes containing blueberry and green tea have the potential to protect athletes from virus infections following rigorous exercise. Copyright (c) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


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.


Plum and soy aglycon extracts superior at increasing bone calcium retention in ovariectomized Sprague Dawley rats

Pawlowski, J. W.; Martin, B. R.; McCabe, G. P.; Ferruzzi, M. G.; Weaver, C. M.
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Plant-derived polyphenols have been shown to influence bone turnover and bone properties in the estrogen-depleted state. We used a crossover design in ovariectomized rats (n = 16 rats for each diet) to investigate the effect of supplementation of two doses each of blueberry, plum, grape, grape seed extract, and resveratrol on bone. We tested the aglycon and glucoside forms of genistein to quantify differences in efficacy on bone calcium retention. Rats were given an intravenous dose of 45Ca to prelabel bone, and bone calcium retention was assessed by urinary excretion of 45Ca:Ca ratio during an intervention period compared with nonintervention. Genistein aglycon increased bone calcium retention significantly (p<0.05) more than the glucoside (22% vs 13%, respectively). Plum extract (0.45% w/w total dietary polyphenols) and resveratrol (0.2% w/w total dietary polyphenols) were also effective, increasing bone calcium retention by 20% (p=0.0153) and 14% (p=0.0012), respectively. Several polyphenolic-rich diets improved bone calcium retention.


Blueberry anthocyanins induce G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of oral cancer KB cells through down-regulation methylation of p53

Qi, C.; Shaowei, L.; Yuchen, J.; Li, W.
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Blueberries are an excellent source of dietary polyphenols such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids. In this study, we investigated the ability of anthocyanins from the wild blueberries of Inner Mongolia to suppress the growth of the oral cancer cell line KB. The blueberry anthocyanins were extracted with methanol-containing 0.1% (v/v) hydrochloric acid. Fourteen unique anthocyanins were identified using high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS). The anticancer bioactivity of the extracts on KB cells was analyzed using methylthiazolyl-tetrazolium (MTT), flow cytometry (FCM) and immunocytochemistry. It was shown that the blueberry anthocyanins suppressed the proliferation of KB cells in a dose-dependent manner, as well as induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of oral cancer KB cells. Immunocytochemistry analysis showed that the expression of caspase-9 and cytochrome c were obviously increased after the anthocyanins treatment. Western blot analysis also indicated that the expression of p53 was increased. Methylation-specific PCR (MSP) showed that the amount of unmethylated p53 increased, indicating that the anthocyanins can down-regulate the methylation of p53.


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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.