Blue To Stay In The Pink

The humble blueberry has received an abundance of attention for its antioxidant and brain-protecting effects. A current study confirmed European blueberries, both wild and cultivated, are one of the richest sources of plant-derived antioxidants (only pomegranates and rose hip berries are notably higher). Some studies, though, have found that blueberries' antioxidant potency may vary, depending on what type of cultivated blueberry is tested. And so far, most studies haven't actually been on people. Research on blueberry extracts, for instance, has shown inhibition of human cervical and breast cancer cells, but only in culture, not human studies as yet.

The big question is whether eating of the blue translates into enhanced health. Animal studies have shown that blueberry-enriched diets indeed can delay the appearance of age-related decline in mental and behavioral function. However, in one study, two different blueberry cultivars showed different biological effects, reinforcing the axiom that plants/fruits differ, even within the same species. A recent human study showed that supplementing subjects with 100 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder mixed in water significantly increases antioxidant activity in the blood. One potential concern for high doses of blueberries is killing beneficial intestinal probiotic bacteria because of blueberries' antibacterial effects.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS, has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies. He is cofounder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.