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EFFECTS OF BLUEBERRIES ON HEALTH, HEART, BRAIN FUNCTIONS, CHOLESTEROL, DIABETES, AND WEIGHT LOSS

Blueberry has low calories yet packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants that can boost brain health, reduce inflammation, and prevent cancer proliferation. As low as 12 mg daily of berry anthocyanins can aid in weight loss and lower type 2 diabetes risks by 23%. Every 15 mg increase in berry anthocyanin intake can reduce the risk of heart diseases by up to 32%.
Effects of blueberries on the heart, brain functions, cholesterol, diabetes, and weight loss

Table of Contents

In advising our members, we filter thousands of research and fads, relying only on the credible worldwide science available for better health and weight reduction. Here we chose the interesting research of Dr. Michael Greger. Yet, no research replaces your own doctor's advice.

Research Summary

  1. 100 g of blueberries contain 387 mg of anthocyanins which can reduce inflammation and insulin resistance.
  2. 12 mg daily intake of anthocyanin reduces heart disease risk by 12-21% among older men and women and 32% among younger adults.
  3.  Every 15 mg increase in berry anthocyanin intake can decrease the risk of heart attacks by 17%.
  4. 2 to 3 servings of blueberries a week can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 23%.
  5. Eating one cup of blueberries can improve cognition within an hour after eating.
  6. Adding blueberries to the daily diet can delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.
  7. Eating blueberries can help reduce free radicals (compounds that interfere with cells’ normal function) and improve cellular resistance to DNA damage.
  8. ½ cup of frozen blueberries can counteract the arterial dysfunction induced by smoking.
  9. Daily blueberry consumption increases good bacteria in the gut and can aid in weight loss by up to 11 to 14% in males and 3% in females.

Definitions

What are blueberries?

Blueberries are bluish-purple berries with low calories but are packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, and essential nutrients like iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, and vitamins C and K. Eating blueberries daily can help in brain health, weight management, blood pressure and blood sugar control, and cardiovascular health, as well as in reduced inflammation and cancer proliferation.

What is anthocyanin?

Anthocyanin is a natural water-soluble pigment that gives blue, red, or purple coloring to fruits and vegetables. It is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity effects. Blueberries are abundant in anthocyanin pigments which make the most significant impact on blueberry health functionality. 

Table 1: Blueberry is one of the richest sources of anthocyanin

Are Blueberries Good For The Heart?

Thanks to Dr Michael Greger and NutritionFacts.org

A half-cup of blueberries contains about 120 mg of brightly colored pigments called anthocyanins. Four out of five studies show that increased intake of anthocyanin is associated with a significant reduction in risks of coronary heart disease—the number one killer of men and women. The magnitude of the protective effect of increased anthocyanin intake was smaller in the older women and men (12% to  21%) than a study that focused on younger and middle-aged women where a 32% reduction in risk was observed comparing extremes of anthocyanin intake. A 47% drop in heart attack risk was recorded for those in the top 10% of berry consumption. Every 15 mg increase a day adds a 17% drop in threat.

Blueberries can improve artery function

Thanks to Dr Michael Greger and NutritionFacts.org

In more thorough studies, scientists concluded that blueberry intake acutely improves artery function in a time- an intake-dependent manner. These benefits may be mechanistically linked to the actions of circulating phenolic metabolites on neutrophil NADPH oxidase activity. 

So what’s the optimal blueberry intake? Tests showed a significant spike in artery function improvement within just one hour of consumption after eating one and three-quarter cups of blueberries. It seems to be where the effect maxes out. Less than a cup is good, but 2 cups yield better results with no benefit going beyond that in a single meal.

Figure 1: Eating 2 cups of blueberries 100 mins before smoking reduces arterial dysfunction by less than half

In more thorough studies, scientists concluded that blueberry intake acutely improves artery function in a time- an intake-dependent manner. These benefits may be mechanistically linked to the actions of circulating phenolic metabolites on neutrophil NADPH oxidase activity. 

So what’s the optimal blueberry intake? Tests showed a significant spike in artery function improvement within just one hour of consumption after eating one and three-quarter cups of blueberries. It seems to be where the effect maxes out. Less than a cup is good, but 2 cups yield better results with no benefit going beyond that in a single meal.

Figure 2: Blueberry intake acutely improves artery function in an intake-dependent manner

Can we cook blueberries? Relevant studies showed the same remarkable improvement in artery function from the blueberry baked into a bun, just spiking an hour later, since solid food passes more slowly through the stomach. Regular eating of blueberries can reduce artery stiffness and boost the natural killer cells, which are among the body’s natural first lines of defense against viral infections and cancer.

Figure 3: Drinking pulverized blueberry tea brewed for 5 minutes reduces LDL by up to 30%

Are Blueberries Good For The Brain?

Thanks to Dr Michael Greger and NutritionFacts.org

A famous Harvard study on dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline showed that regular blueberry consumption appeared to delay brain aging by up to 2-and-a-half years. Eating 6 cups of blueberries a day improved memory in older adults in just 12 weeks. In addition, trends were suggesting reduced depressive symptoms and lower glucose levels.

Another study compared the effects of 24 g of daily blueberry intake to 13 men and 24 women. Participants were given a battery of balance, gait, and cognitive tests, and results demonstrated performance improvements across all measures with the addition of easily achievable quantities of blueberries to the diets.

Figure 4: The addition of easily available quantities of blueberry to the diets can improve some aspects of cognition

Related studies show that blueberry supplementation to the diets of older adults can improve some aspects of cognition like long-term memory. Researchers compared the cognitive improvements with enhanced brain activation using brain scan technology to visualize the improved blood flow to those same brain regions caused by blueberry consumption. Blueberry supplementations have shown positive effects on cognition in adults, but do these benefits transfer to children?

A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study compared the effects of 1 cup and 2 cups of blueberries on children’s cognition. Results showed performance improvements across all measures within hours of just a single blueberry meal. The more berries, the better!


Can Blueberries Help Lower Bad Cholesterol?

Experiments with more than 1,000 people show that eating blueberries help control bad cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars, body weight, diabetes, and inflammation. The fiber in blueberry lowers cholesterol.

Figue 5: The antioxidant capacity of the bloodstream increased with daily intake of blueberries for three month

Blueberry tea can also lower cholesterol, even in kids. In one research, kids were given blueberry tea (powdered blueberries in a tea bag dipped in hot water for five minutes). Results indicated that the subjects’ bloodstream antioxidant capacity increased over the six months they were in the study. A significant effect began to manifest three months after the start, showing a 30% drop in LDL (bad cholesterol).


Can Blueberries Help Prevent Diabetes?

Thanks to Dr Michael Greger and NutritionFacts.org

Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Studies show that consuming anthocyanin-rich foods, like blueberries, was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over time. Three servings of blueberries a week can lead to less inflammation and significantly lower insulin resistance, associated with a 23% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. It is like walking for an hour a day, seven days a week.


DNA Damage Can Be Reduced By Eating Blueberries

In one study, researchers drew blood from people before and after they ate frozen blueberries. The white blood cells in the samples were then exposed to free radicals in the form of hydrogen peroxide.

Free radicals can damage the DNA. The antioxidant capacity of the bloodstream takes a nosedive two hours afterward as the body tries to cope. The results demonstrated a significant reduction in postprandial oxidation (an increase in sensitivity to oxidative damage after a meal). The DNA damage was significantly reduced within an hour after berry consumption. In conclusion, a portion of blueberries can improve cellular resistance to DNA damage, thus supporting the importance of consuming healthy plant foods regularly.


Can Blueberries Boost Weight Reduction?

Blueberry fruit is one of the essential antioxidant resources due to the content of anthocyanins and phenolic substances. Blueberry antioxidants were found to have remarkably high bioaccessibility values (proportion of a nutrient consumed and absorbed by the body).

How do blueberries affect our health if the anthocyanins hardly even make it into our system? In a relevant study, women were given more than a cup of blueberries to eat. The anthocyanins did not appear in the subjects’ bloodstream or flowing through their urine until after one hour.

Figure 6: Blueberry pigments are metabolized by the liver

Blueberry pigments are metabolized by the liver and the body’s microbiome (the good bacteria in our gut) into active metabolites. Eating blueberries feeds the good bacteria in the body’s digestive system, like taking a natural probiotic.

In a parallel study, the ingestion of blueberry fruit by overweight and obese individuals was investigated. In the research, significant differences were observed in BMI, insulin levels, insulin resistance, LDL, total cholesterol, and uric acid levels after blueberry consumption. In the 12th week, blueberry eaters lost weight by up to 11 to 14% more in males and 3% more in females. Blueberries consumed daily have been shown to reduce weight loss and body fat levels significantly.


Clinical Reference

Blueberry intake included in hypocaloric diet decreases weight, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and adenosine levels in obese subjects

Obesity is characterized by an extreme accumulation of fat in the body. It has been linked to the growth of inflammation-related endogenous molecules, such as adenosine (AD). Blueberries have been known to induce anti-obesity effects, so the researchers tested the effects of blueberries consumption in a hypocaloric diet on weight, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and AD levels in obese participants. The participants were given a hypocaloric diet that included 50 g of blueberries a day for 30 days. Results indicated that male obese subjects who consumed blueberries showed a reduction in weight, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and AD. Meanwhile, female obese subjects who ate blueberries in a hypocaloric diet showed no changes in weight, BMI, glucose, and triglycerides but demonstrated a diminution in cholesterol and AD levels. Data suggested that blueberry intake can decrease some obesity-linked parameters in male and female subjects. Significantly, blueberry consumption can lower the inflammation-related compound AD in both genders. Read the full medical research here.


Citations

(2021, February 19). Greger, Michael, MD. “Flashback Friday: Benefits of Blueberries for Heart Disease.” NutritionFacts.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q02TjCLw8bU

(2018, August 13). Greger, Michael, MD. “Benefits of Blueberries for the Brain.” NutritionFacts.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdjtf1oXypo 

(2019, March 11). Greger, Michael, MD. “Blueberries for a Diabetic Diet and DNA Repair.” NutritionFacts.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDNyZeD87oc 

(2018, May 16). Greger, Michael, MD. “Benefits of Blueberries for Artery Function.” NutritionFacts.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7rRvZGYhWw 

Istek, Nilgun and Gurbuz, Ozan. (November 2017) “Investigation of the impact of blueberries on metabolic factors influencing health.” Journal of Functional Foods. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464617305613#ab005 

María Fernanda Higuera-Hernández et al. (2019). “Blueberry intake included in hypocaloric diet decreases weight, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and adenosine levels in obese subjects.” Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 60, 103409, ISSN 1756-4646.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2019.06.011.