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Blueberries can help fight Metabolic Syndrome
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that wild blueberries, a tasty superfruit, can confer benefits to fight metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a new term in nutrition and health research that refers to a ‘constellation’ of disorders that are often linked to diet and lifestyle.
The disorders associated with metabolic syndrome include high blood lipids, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high fasting glucose. Together, the symptoms of metabolic syndrome contribute to systemic inflammation and oxidative stress that play a role in the progression of certain degenerative diseases and the aging process. Metabolic syndrome is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese and stress. People who have even some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome are considered at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Wild blueberries provide bountiful benefits
“A variety of research evidence points to the possible benefits of wild blueberries in metabolic syndrome,” explains Wilhelmina Kalt, Ph.D. Food Chemistry, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada.
Blueberries have been examined for their effects on the conditions associated with metabolic disorder in studies conducted in the test tube (in vitro) or with laboratory animals (in vivo) in human clinical studies and even in population (epidemiological) studies.
- In a 2011 study, blueberry diets were shown to lower blood pressure, preserve vascular function in kidneys and prevent oxidative stress by raising antioxidant defenses in kidneys in an in vivo rodent model.[i]
- An epidemiological study published this year in Circulation, a Journal of the American Heart Association, presents strong supporting evidence of the positive effects of blueberries on reducing the risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle aged women.[ii] The benefits are attributed to the berries’ very high anthocyanin concentration. Other animal research shows that anthocyanins can counter the buildup of plaque and provide additional cardiovascular advantages.[iii]
Dr. Kalt goes on to explain that “The research community is beginning to appreciate the real human health benefits that may arise from fruit and vegetable rich diets. Wild blueberries clearly stand out as a rich and convenient source of a key ingredient in health – anthocyanins.”
Compared to other fruits and vegetables, blueberries are rich in polyphenolics and especially anthocyanin flavonoids. Anthocyanins are the pigments that confer the very deep blue colour to blueberries and are also associated with an array of health benefits that mitigate the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome.
Linking lifestyle to metabolic syndrome
There is an epidemic of metabolic syndrome in Western society that can be linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle and stress. These risks can be managed through changes in one’s daily routine and diet. The biological markers of metabolic syndrome generally increase as we get older, which is relevant to our aging western population. Various lines of evidence suggest that wild blueberries can deliver benefits due to their unique and rich mixture of phytonutrients. Research reveals how wild blueberry phytonutrients may work in a variety of ways to mitigate metabolic syndrome.
- For example, in a 2010 study conducted on 48 obese men and women who already had metabolic syndrome, after ingesting blueberries for eight weeks participants showed a decline in blood pressure. Analysis of the plasma from the participants showed lower levels of oxidative stress, which is normally elevated when metabolic syndrome occurs. [iv]
Wild blueberries are an antioxidant leader, have a medium glycemic index, are rich in manganese, high in fibre and are only 45 calories per 100 gram serving (approximately 400 wild blueberries)[v]. According to research[vi], they contain a higher concentration of polyphenolics and especially anthocyanin pigments than most berries, making them an excellent choice for people looking to improve health through diet.
Berries for all seasons
For anyone looking for a way to help keep healthy—wild blueberries are the smart choice. The berries freeze particularly well, with nutrition and quality intact, and are available in the supermarket frozen-fruit aisle year-round. Small in size, wild blueberries thaw more efficiently compared to other frozen berry choices and maintain their original utility and functionality. Therefore, it is easy to have a ready source of this superfruit in the freezer. Using frozen fruits and vegetables is a convenient and easy way to get a colourful and nutritious variety of fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
The Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) is an international trade association of growers and processors of wild blueberries from Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Maine, dedicated to bringing the wild blueberry health story and unique wild advantages to consumers and the trade worldwide. For recipes, nutritional information or to learn more about wild blueberries visit www.wildblueberries.com or follow @WildBBerries4U on Twitter.
[i] Elks, C.M., Reed, S.C., Mariappan, N., Shukkitt-Hale, B., Joseph, J.A., Ingram, D.K. and Francis, J. (2011), A blueberry-enriched diet attenuates nephropathy in a rat model of hypertension via reduction in oxidative stress. PloS ONE, 6(9): article ID e24028
[ii] Cassidy, A., Mukamal, K.J., Liu, L., Franz, M., Eliassen, A. H., and Rimm, E. B. (2013), High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation, 127: 188-196
[iii]Kim, H., Bartley, G.E., Rimando, A.M. and Yokoyama W. (2010), Hepatic gene expression related to lower plasma cholesterol in hamsters fed high-fat diets supplemented with blueberry peels and peel extract
J Agric Food Chem., 58(7):3984-3991.
[iv] Basu, A., Du, M., Leyva, M.J., Sanchez, K., Betts, N.M., Wu, M., Aston, C.E., Lyons, T.J. (2010), Blueberries decrease cardiovascular risk factors in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome. J. Nutr., 140(9):1582-1587.
[vi] Kalt, W., MacKinnon, S., McDonald, J., Vinqvist, M., Craft, C. and Howell, A. (2008), Phenolics of berries and other fruit crops. J. Sci. Food Agric., 88: 68–76.
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