After learning about the nutritional facts of blueberries, it should come as no surprise that blueberries have many health benefits.
Oxidative DNA damage is part of everyday life occurring in every single cell in the body (1). This DNA damage is part of the reason we grow older, and it also plays an important role in the development of diseases like cancer. Several studies have shown that, due to their high antioxidant content, blueberries can protect against this DNA damage and inflammation. (2, 3, 4).
This means that they can literally protect our brains from degeneration, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress.
According to animal studies, the antioxidants in blueberries tend to accumulate in areas of the brain that are essential for intelligence (5, 6). They appear to directly interact with aging neurons, leading to improvements in cell signalling.
In another study, 9 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment consumed blueberry juice every day. After 12 weeks, they had seen improvements in several markers of brain function (7).
A six year study of 16,010 elderly participants found that blueberries were linked to delays in cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years (8).
A recent study (*) conducted by the University of Reading and published in Food & Function showed that primary school children show better attention by consuming flavonoid-rich blueberries. The double blind trial found that the children who consumed a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink had 9% quicker reaction times on the test without any sacrifice of accuracy. In particular, the effect was more noticeable as the tests got harder.
A great reason to start the day with blueberries or to add them to the school lunchboxes! Find blueberry breakfast recipes here.
Clinical studies have even discovered that, unlike radiation and chemotherapy, gallic acid-rich foods like blueberries can kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
The Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology published a study evaluating the anticancer effects gallic acid has on breast cancer cells (9). Researchers discovered that blueberries and gallic acid slow and even destroy breast cancer.
Blueberry benefits cancer primarily due to their wide range of antioxidants, with gallic acid the primary and resveratrol also offering support.
According to a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which focused on the effects of blueberries on prostate cancer, the anthocyanins may also help attack cancer-causing free radicals and possibly even block tumor cells from forming. The scientists found evidence to suggest blueberries are a potential therapeutic agent for early stage prostate cancer or a possible means of prostate cancer prevention. (10)
The gastrointestinal tract is populated by an array of bacteria (known as the gut microbiome). These bacteria play an important role in many of our body’s metabolic and immune functions. The composition, diversity and health of these bacteria is influenced by what we eat – that is, we need to feed the good bacteria!
Being a natural source of soluble and insoluble fiber, blueberries are a valuable prebiotic as discovered by University of Maine researcher Vivian Chi-Hua Wu (11). Prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the colon and promote digestive and health benefit.
Blueberries appear to have significant benefits for people with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for some of the world’s leading killers.
In one study, obese individuals at a high risk for heart disease noted a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure, after consuming 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of blueberries per day, for eight weeks (12).
Given that high blood pressure is one of the leading drivers of heart attacks and strokes, the implications of this are significant.
Blueberries contain iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K. Each of these is a component of bone. Adequate intake of these minerals and vitamins contributes to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
Iron and zinc fulfil crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints.
Low intakes of vitamin K have been linked to a higher risk of bone fracture. However, adequate vitamin K intake improves calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss. (15)
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons and it is the substance that holds the body together and gives the skin strength and elasticity. As collagen production declines with age, the wrinkles increase.
The anthocyanidins, vitamin C and copper found in blueberries all help the body produce collagen, thereby reducing the visible signs of skin aging.
Blueberries also contain resveratrol, which is proven to reduce skin damage resulting from over exposure to the sun.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that take hold and grow inside the urinary tract, causing an infection.
Like cranberries, blueberries contain flavonoids that can prevent certain bacteria from binding to the wall of the urinary bladder. This may be useful in preventing urinary tract infections.
Blueberries are moderate in sugar when compared to other fruits. One cup of blueberries contains 15 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to a small apple or large orange.
Research suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries can have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. These anti-diabetic effects have been shown with both blueberry juice and extract (16, 17, 18).
In a study of 32 obese subjects with insulin resistance, a blueberry smoothie caused major improvements in insulin sensitivity (19).
Improved insulin sensitivity should lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, which are currently some of the world’s biggest health problems.
Eating blueberries may lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) (20) – risk factors which may lead to heart disease.
A daily 50 gram serving of blueberries lowered LDL oxidation by 27% in obese participants, after a period of eight weeks (21).
Another study showed that 75 grams of blueberries with a main meal significantly reduced the oxidation of LDL lipoproteins (22).
A recent study, suggests that berries, including strawberries and blueberries, may reduce the risk of heart disease in women, due to their high content of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help to counter the buildup of arterial plaque and improve cardiovascular health. According to the study, women who eat three or more servings a week of blueberries or strawberries may reduce their risk of heart disease. (23 )
Blueberries are low in calories, low on the glycemic index and high in fibre – three great reasons to eat blueberries to lose weight.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Low glycemic index foods are absorbed more slowly, they stay in your digestive tract longer. This is why these foods are sometimes called slow carbs. These foods may help control appetite and delay hunger cues, which can help with weight management. Balanced blood sugar also can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance.”
This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician-patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.