A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that animals whose diet were enhanced with 8 percent wild blueberries encountered lesser blood vessel constrictions as compared to animals who were given a controlled diet.

The research study was undertaken by a team of researchers from the University of Louisville, Northwestern University and the University of Maine.  They said that the distinctive goal and approach of their study was to look at the dietary effect of consuming wild blueberries – not the isolated bioactive compounds – on the tone of the blood vessels of adult rats that are spontaneously hypertensive.

Researchers said that their data gives clear proof that the 8-week dietary inclusion of 8 percent wild blueberry in adult rats with spontaneous hypertension showing endothelial dysfunction has resulted in an important moderation of the increased vascular tone of the aorta.

It was proposed that the blueberries acted through the nitric oxide pathway.  Nitric oxide is a powerful chemical compound that dilates or relaxes the blood vessel thereby helping in the reduction of high blood pressure. Blueberries have long been popular because of its antioxidant properties which assist in preventing damage brought about by free radicals.

Study details

The team of researchers, led by Dorothy Klimis-Zacas from the University of Maine, supplied spontaneously hypertensive rats with wild blueberry or control diet for a period of 8 weeks.  The Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) provided the blueberries as a composite, and were then made to undergo freeze-drying and then powdered by FutureCeuticals of Illinois.

Following the 8-week intervention, the spontaneously hypertensive rats were exposed to a vasoconstrictor compound, l-phenylephrine, without or with l-NG-monomethyl arginine, another compound recognized to hinder an enzyme known as NO synthase (NOS), which is responsible for enhancing the transmission of impulses from one nerve cell to another.  It also helps in enhancing the functions of the immune system, and in dilating or relaxing blood vessels.

Results have shown that the vasoconstriction effects brought about by l-phenylephrine were reduced in the group whose diet was supplemented with wild blueberries, causing reduced vascular tone in basal conditions.  The said effect is credited to the Nitric Oxide pathway.  The researchers concluded that the result of their study documents the capability of wild blueberries to alter the pathways of vessel control and improve the tone of the blood vessels in adult rats that are spontaneously hypertensive with endothelial dysfunction.

The Health Benefits of Blueberries

Blueberries are said to be nature’s only true blue food.  These are excellent sources of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins and phenolic acids.  Blueberries have grown so popular over the years with more and more studies conducted regarding the positive health benefits one may derive from eating these fruits.  With the publication of scientific evidence supporting the health claims of blueberries and its antioxidant properties, consumers are raring to get their own dose of wellness.  The fruit is said to be effective in reducing high cholesterol levels and it also aids in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease as well as some forms of cancer.

Some of the health benefits of eating blueberries include:

1. Antioxidant Properties

Blueberries are very rich in antioxidants.  Aside from the already mentioned ones, blueberries also contain zinc, selenium, copper, vitamins A, B, C and E, and iron.  These enhance the function of the immune system and helps prevent infection.  A strong immune system would mean a healthier you.

2. Fights off Free Radicals

Blueberries, through its component called anthocyanin, help neutralize free radicals that are present in the body.  Free radicals cause damage to cells, brings diseases and is responsible for premature aging. Anthocyanins are pigments that give blueberries its blue tint. The vitamin C that is present in blueberries also plays a major role in the fight against free radicals.

3. Belly Fat reduction

A study from the Cardiovascular Center of the University of Michigan suggests that blueberry consumption aids in reducing belly fat – one of the risk factors of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.  The researchers used rats as test subjects where a powder enriched with blueberry was mixed with the rats’ food.  After a 90-day period, the rats whose diets were supplemented with blueberry enriched power had lesser abdominal fat, and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

4. Prevents Urinary Tract Infection

Blueberries contain compounds which stops the growth of bacteria, such as b-coli, in the linings of the urinary tract walls, washing off the bacteria from the tract.  The fruit also exhibits antibiotic properties which also stops bacterial growth so that urinary tract infection is prevented.

5. Promotes Healthy Vision

Clinical studies have shown that anthocyanides that are present in blueberry extract help slow down, or prevent, the loss of vision caused by aging such as hypermetropia, myopia, cataract and macular degeneration. Other blueberry components such as vitamins A, C and E, phosphorus, zinc, flavonoids and carotenoids are also very helpful and important for healthy eyes.

A report published in the Archives of Ophthalmology suggests that consuming 3 or more blueberry servings each day may reduce a person’s risk for the development of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) by 36 percent compared to those who eat less than one and a half servings per day.

How to Increase Blueberry Consumption

There are many different ways with which you can increase your intake of blueberries, especially now that you are fully aware of its health benefits.  Here are some simple tips on how you could do just that:

  • Blueberries for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner? Yes!

Slow cooked oatmeal topped with fresh blueberries is one of my favorites. For lunch, add blueberries to your salad.  At dinner, you can even have a side of blueberries!  This way, you’ll have blueberry ready to fight the battle with free radicals all day long.

For dessert, there are simply a wide array of options – be creative but in a healthy way. Skip the blueberry pastries and pies, which are loaded with artificial ingredients and refined sugars and try adding a handful of blueberries in your yogurt instead. That will do the trick.

  • Drink it up!

There’s nothing more refreshing than sitting down to a cup of fresh blueberry tea, or a delightful smoothie made from blueberry. You may even do it at home.  Take out your blender and go make that smoothie all by yourself.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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