Blueberries and their health benefits

Blueberries are small, deep red to purple berries, depending on the variety. They belong to the Vaccinium spp. genus. They are a species of the Ericaceae family that offer a tasty, nutritional and highly versatile fruit to include in your diet. Due to its renowned health properties, consumption of blueberries has increased in recent times and they have become very popular. 

The name Vaccinium covers all the species of blueberry. Of these, the following are the most widely used:

  • The North American blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.)
  • The rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei)
  • The Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton)
  • The bilberry or European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) 

A fruit with a high nutritional value

Blueberries are fruits with very low caloric intake, high nutritional content and high water content (85%)1. This is why they are often recommended in weight loss meal plans, because they aid the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins2

Blueberries have one of the highest bioactive compound (BAC) contents of all berries. These are responsible for many of their benefits and vary according to type of blueberry. They include components such as anthocyanins, quercetins and myricetins3. In addition to the above bioactive compounds, blueberries also provide fibre and a multitude of vitamins and minerals1.

The antioxidant power of anthocyanins

The anthocyanins found in blueberry skin are responsible for the fruit’s colour, and it is the bioactive compounds that are responsible for most of blueberries’ antioxidant potency3.

The antioxidants in the Vaccinium myrtillus blueberry can protect us from free radicals and help us in case of nutritional deficiency or an increase in nutrients.

Blueberry and cardiovascular health

According to a study carried out by Cassidy et al., high anthocyanin intake helped to reduce cardiovascular risk in young and middle-aged women by 32%. It can therefore be concluded that consuming this active compound present in blueberries can benefit cardiovascular health4.

In addition, consuming Vaccinium myrtillus blueberry can help to maintain vascular integrityand is used for healthy circulation in the blood microvessels, which helps to reduce the sensation of heavy legs6.

This was also demonstrated by a study carried out by Stull et al., in which a blueberry shake was consumed by a group of people. The effect on markers of inflammation and endothelial function was compared with people who had received a placebo, and a link was found between blueberry consumption and a significant improvement in the function of the inner layer of the arteries. This may be an important factor in preventing cardiovascular disease7.

Other hypotheses have been put forward about the possible benefits of blueberries on other cardiovascular risk factors. However, more research needs to be done to confirm these findings.

Bilberry keeps eyes healthy8

Of the different types of blueberry, bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is the one most recognized and researched for its benefits on eye health. The bilberry fruit is a well-known source of antioxidants, providing antioxidant support to the eyes to help protect them and maintain eye health by supporting visual clarity, retina function and blood flow to the eyes8.

According to a review by Barbara Blodi9, anthocyanins and polyphenols found in blueberries are a viable supplement for eye complaints, although further research is still needed on their potential role for macular degeneration.

In a study carried out by Fursova et al.10, bilberry extract administered to rodents with a tendency to develop eye disorders completely prevented retinal deterioration. Other studies have also reported that bilberry extract reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines in the eyes and reduces damage to cells in the retina11, 12.

How to choose a supplement with bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

To take advantage of the multiple benefits of blueberries, most of which stem from their high antioxidant potency, it is advisable to select a supplement that is well standardised.

At Anastore we offer a standardised extract present in our Visual Pro product, a supplement based on Vaccinium myrtillus blueberry extract that also provides vitamin A in active form, which is necessary for maintaining healthy vision13. It is also a vegan-friendly formula and contains no genetically modified organisms.

Bibliography

  1. US. Department of Agriculture. Blueberries, raw. Nutrition facts.
  2. Extracted from the European Commission compilation list, under EFSA validation (ID 4500).
  3. Wing-kwan Chu, Sabrina C. M. Cheung, Roxanna A. W. Lau, Iris F. F. Benzie, Sissi Wachtel-Galor. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 4.
  4. Cassidy A, Mukamal KJ, Liu L, Franz M, Eliassen AH, Rimm EB. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation. 2013;127(2):188-196. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408.
  5. Extracted from the European Commission compilation list, under EFSA validation (ID2002).
  6. Extracted from the European Commission compilation list, under EFSA validation (ID2347).
  7. Stull AJ, Cash KC, Champagne CM, et al. Blueberries improve endothelial function, but not blood pressure, in adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients. 2015;7(6):4107-4123. Published 2015 May 27. doi:10.3390/nu7064107.
  8. Extracted from the European Commission compilation list, under EFSA validation (ID2050).
  9. Blodi BA. Nutritional supplements in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Insight. 2004;29(1):15-18.
  10. Fursova AZh, Gesarevich OG, Gonchar AM, Trofimova NA, Kolosova NG. Adv Gerontol. 2005;16:76-79.
  11. Wang Y, Zhao L, Lu F, et al. Retinoprotective Effects of Bilberry Anthocyanins via Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anti-Apoptotic Mechanisms in a Visible Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration Model in Pigmented Rabbits. Molecules. 2015;20(12):22395-22410. Published 2015 Dec 14. doi:10.3390/molecules201219785.
  12. Osada H, Okamoto T, Kawashima H, et al. Neuroprotective effect of bilberry extract in a murine model of photo-stressed retina. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0178627. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0178627.
  13. COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012, establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health.