Compound in Blueberries May Prevent Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
Eating only one half cup of blueberries satisfies one of the daily fruit and vegetable requirements and may help reduce your bad cholesterol levels. Frozen blueberries are as good as fresh, says the FDA.
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By Lesley Michael
August 30, 2004
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that they had identified a compound in blueberries known as pterostilebene that may help fight heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
At a meeting this week of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, Dr. Agnes Rimando, lead researcher in the study explained, “"We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease, which are leading killers in the U.S.”
Earlier this year Rimando's team identified pterostilebene in blueberries, but had not tested its effect on cardiovascular health. Pterostilebene is chemically similar to another antioxidant found in the skin of blueberries and grapes (and red wine!) called resveratrol, Rimando's study proved that pterostilebene is significantly better at stimulating the PPAR-alpha receptor than reservatol (known to lower LDL cholesterol, blood fats, and blood sugar levels). Both resveratrol and pterostilbene are part of a group of compounds called phytoalexins that are produced by plants as protective devices against environmental stressors and to promote pollination.
Furthermore, in their study funded by the National Cancer Institute, Rimando's researchers maintained that the compound pterostilbene was more effective than the drug ciprofibrate, prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol. They noted that because pterostilbene targets a very specific structure in the body, it resulted in fewer side-effects than the prescription medication.
Anthocyanin, another powerful antioxidant known to prevent brain aging, is also found in blueberries. It is the same compound that gives the pterostilbene-rich blueberry skin its bright, vivid, blue color. Color in fruits and vegetables serves as a direct indicator of phytonutrient levels. Antioxidants are especially valuable to our health because of their ability to fight free-radical damage to cells, which may lead to cancer, heart disease, and chronic inflammation.
A previously published study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that blueberries had the highest antioxidant level per serving compared to 20 other fruits. One cup of blueberries has more antioxidants than one serving of cranberries, strawberries, prunes or raspberries. And, one serving of blueberries has as many antioxidants as five servings of carrots, apples, broccoli or squash. Blueberries are also great sources of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and bacterial inhibitors.
Dr. Rimando explained that the study on pterostilebene does not automatically prove that eating blueberries will lower cholesterol and that further studies are necessary in order assess the quantity and concentration of blueberries needed to see these results in human populations. (This research was done mostly in test tubes.) Nonetheless Rimando was optimistic that this research could lead to the creation of viable alternatives to existing drug-therapies treating cholesterol.
GET YOUR DAILY DOSE!
Helpful hints from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America:
-A half-cup of blueberries satisfies one of the five daily recommended fruit servings.
-The FDA has concluded that frozen vegetables and fruits are just as healthy as fresh ones and may even retain more nutritional content.
-Use blueberries right out of the freezer and add them to cereals, fruit smoothies, salads, yogurt, ice cream, waffles, pancakes, muffins…BE CREATIVE!
-At the market select fresh blueberries that appear firm, have a uniform color, and are free of moisture. Gently shake the container to check that the berries move freely (if they don't it may indicate soft, damaged or moldy blueberries).
-Don't rinse the whole package when you get home! Instead, wash blueberries just before they are used. The whitish outside will help prevent spoilage.
More Blueberry Facts and Information:
The Wild Blueberry Association of North America, an association of growers and processors of Wild Blueberries.
Blueberries are one of the "World's Healthiest Foods"
Largest USDA study of food antioxidants reveals best sources, June 15, 2004
Resveratrol in Grapes Fights Cancer, Science,10:218-221,1997
Resveratrol, Pterostilbene, and Piceatannol in Vaccinium Berries Ri W.; Magee, J. B.; Dewey, J.; Ballington, J. R.; J. Agric. Food Chem., 52(15); 4713-4719, 2004.,