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Georgian Blue Berry

Berries May Protect Against Cancer and Heart Disease
By Hank Becker
February 27, 2001

Blueberries, cranberries, huckleberries and related plants have now been found to contain resveratrol, a potential anticancer agent, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists who made the discovery.
This new finding from ARS chemist Agnes Rimando at the Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, Oxford, Miss., adds to previous research by other scientists who found that dark-skinned bunch grapes contain resveratrol. Rimando is working with scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kentville, Nova Scotia, and the ARS Small Fruit Research Station in Poplarville, Miss.
Using chemical identification procedures, the team of scientists measured the resveratrol content of 30 whole fruit samples of blueberry, cranberry, huckleberry and related plants. The samples represented five families and 10 species of Vaccinium fruit. They also measured resveratrol in skin, juice/pulp and seed samples of muscadine grape.

Because of its important biological properties, resveratrol (3,5,4-trihydroxystilbene) has been examined extensively in grapes. Studies showed the compound protects the grapes from fungal diseases. It also provides health benefits for consumers by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The compound's anticancer potential warranted its examination in other fruits.
The team's studies showed that several fruit samples of Vaccinium contain varying amounts of the compound. Analysis of the extracts of the skin, juice/pulp and seed of muscadine grapes showed that concentration of resveratrol in the skin was highest. Levels in the juice/pulp were much lower than in the skin and seeds. Analysis of more Vaccinium and muscadine samples is continuing.
The new data could help build a foundation for increasing resveratrol in those berry and grape crops that are important to many small farmers. Future research goals will include enhancing production of resveratrol in selected species.

ARS is the lead scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Agnes Rimando, ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, Oxford, Miss, phone (662) 915-1037, fax (662) 915-1035,

Blueberry Medicinal Research
Research program:
We are interested in the medicinal properties of cranberries and blueberries, especially their bacterial anti-adhesion and antioxidant capacities. Our research focus is on bioassay-directed fractionation of cranberry and blueberry to elucidate and characterize the compounds responsible for the medicinal effects. Breeding for higher levels of medicinal compounds has been a major component of our research. Here at the Rutgers Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center, we have access to a broad selection of germplasm. This allows us to incorporate many favorable characteristics into our crosses when we breed for enhanced levels.
Current projects involving blueberries and/or cranberries:

1. Blueberry and Cranberry Compounds Active in the Prevention and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections
Objectives: To identify, purify, and structurally characterize compounds from cranberry and blueberry fruit and leaves responsible for inhibiting adherence of P-fimbriated uropathogenic strains of E. coli to specific oligosaccharide receptors on cellular surfaces found in the urinary tract; and, to test the ability of the compounds to inhibit adhesion of other genera of P-fimbriated bacteria to cellular surfaces.

2. Comparison of the Medicinal Effects Among a Selection of Wild and Cultivated Vaccinium Species
Objectives: To collect fruit from wild and cultivated Vaccinium spp. from around the world and fractionate the polyphenolic compounds into anthocyanins, flavonols, and tannins. These classes of compounds are tested individually for their relative contributions towards a range of bioactivities, including anti-adhesin, anti-platelet aggregation, and antioxidant capacity. The fruit from each collected plant is ranked for its overall medicinal quality and for the relative bioactive contribution of each of its polyphenolic components.

3. Investigation of Polyphenolic Antioxidants in Vaccinium corymbosum
Objectives: To fractionate blueberry fruit into polyphenolic extracts, quantify the relative amounts of each class of polyphenolics, measure the total antioxidant status of the extracts, and isolate and identify a flavanoid that exhibits particularly potent antioxidant capacity.

Blueberries Reverse Certain Aging Characteristics

Forget Viagra. Forget red wine. Anyone seeking to really feel young again should try blueberries, research on rats suggests. Old rats fed the equivalent of a cup of blueberries a day not only were more coordinated, but were smarter than other old rats. Researchers are now working to find out just what it is in blueberries that repairs the damage ageing does to the brain. In the meantime, they are eating blueberries themselves.
Researchers found that rats fed spinach and strawberries learned better than rats on a standard diet. Then they threw a blueberry extract into the diet. The rats who got the supplement not only learned faster than other rats, but their motor skills improved.

There were a lot of changes in neuronal communication ó the ability of one neuron to communicate with one another, but what struck the researchers was the ability to change motor behavior. There is virtually nothing out there that can change motor behavior in ageing. But the blueberries did.
The rats were 19 months old, they are the equivalent of 60 to 65 years of age and the researchers feed them for two months so they're up to 70-75. The blueberry fed rats did better on standard rat tests, like making them swim in a water maze, or find an underwater platform in murky water. But they also did better on tests involving a spinning rod or an inclined rod ó good tests of coordination.
Young rats six months old could stay on a rod an average of 14 seconds. Old rats fell off after six seconds, but the blueberry-supplemented old rats could stay on for 10. The blueberries did not make the rats young again, but did improve their skills considerably. When the rats' brains were examined, the brain cells of the rats that got the blueberries communicated better.

The researchers are doing tests to see what compounds in the blueberries are responsible for the effects. Other scientists have found that the components that give fruits and vegetables their color ó such as the lycopene that makes tomatoes red ó are associated with health-giving effects. One of things they might be doing is to protect against oxidative stress. Oxidation occurs all the time in the body and is cell damage created by charged particles known as free radicals. They also may reduce inflammation.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, which range from the resveratrol found in red wine, the anthocyanins that make strawberries red and blueberries blue, and the vitamins A, C and E. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.  The rats ate supplements made from blueberry juice, but the researchers think the whole fruit may confer even more benefits. You can't overdose on blueberries.

Journal of Neuroscience September 1999
Dr. Mercola's Comment:

I find it amazing that these benefits were observed in rats that were fed fruit juice. Blueberries are low in sugar so their juice would not likely stimulate severe insulin swings. However, the researchers clearly understood that the entire whole blueberry would be more beneficial. Most will know of the benefits of grape seed extract for it powerful antioxidant action.

Well, the blueberry also has similar proanthocyanidins that most likely provide similar, if not even more profound benefits. The European blueberry, bilberry, is one of the most potent substances known to prevent and even reverse the most common cause of blindness, macular degeneration.
Unfortunately, blueberries are hard to grow, as they require a very acid soil. I am in my second year of trying to grow some and I have only been able to grow three while about 25 plants have died probably as a result of adding too much acid to the soil. Eventually, I will get it right so I will have a huge crop of organic blueberries in my back yard. In the meantime, I will be purchasing frozen whole blueberries on a regular basis, not only for their taste but also for their amazing health benefits.

Blueberries May Restore Some Memory, Coordination and Balance Lost with Age
By Judy McBride
September 10, 1999

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10--A diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination and improved short-term memory in aging rats, according to a USDA study to be published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

“If this finding holds for humans, it should further encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants to help fight the effects of aging,” said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.
Daily for eight weeks, researchers fed extracts of blueberry, strawberry or spinach to 19 month-old rats, age-equivalent to 65 or 70 year-old humans. All three extracts improved short-term memory. Only the blueberry extract improved balance and coordination.

This is the first study that shows fruits and vegetables actually reversing dysfunctions in behavior and in nerve cells. Earlier, the same researchers, led by neuroscientist James A. Joseph of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, reported that high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables prevented some loss of function in aging rats.

Blueberries, strawberries, and spinach test high in their ability to subdue oxygen free radicals. These oxygen radicals, which can damage cell membranes, DNA and other delicate internal machinery, are blamed for many of the dysfunctions and diseases associated with aging.

“Motor behavior is one of the first things to go as you age,” said Joseph. “The improvements we saw in coordination and balance are really significant. In other studies, little else has reversed these deficits in motor function.”

A decline in motor skills starts at about 12 months for rats. By 19 months, the length of time rats can walk a narrow rod before losing balance normally drops from 13 to 5 seconds. After eating blueberry extract, the rats stayed on the rod for 11 seconds, on average.

Joseph and psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale were joined in the study by Natalia Denisova, Donna Bielinski, Antonio Martin and John McEwen, all at the USDA center in Boston, and Paula Bickford at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver.

Scientific contact: James A. Joseph and Barbara Shukitt-Hale, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, phone (617) 556-3178 [Joseph], (617) 556-3118, [Shukitt-Hale],,

SO McGuire1*, MJ Hejna1, B Shukitt-Hale2, JA Joseph2, CE Sortwell3, TJ Collier3
1Department of Pathology, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL 60153; 2USDA HNRCA, Tufts University, Boston, MA; 3Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612.

Transplantation of embryonic dopamine (DA) neurons into the striatum is a viable treatment for Parkinson's disease (PD). However, transplanted cells survive poorly, with ~90% of transplanted cells dying within the first four days after transplant. Cell death is exacerbated by ~75% in aged animals, resulting in transplants that provide little to no therapeutic benefit. Although the exact mechanism underlying cell death is not known, oxidative stress and inflammation are hypothesized as major contributing factors.

Multiple studies have attempted to improve cell survival by pre-treating the cell transplant material with various anti-apoptotic or antioxidant compounds. This study provides evidence that dietary supplementation with blueberry extract (BBE), a fruit extract with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, provides an efficacious, easily administered and well tolerated therapy that can be used to treat the transplant recipient, thus improving survival of the transplanted cells. Young adult (4 months, n=10) and aged rats (24 months, n=3) were unilaterally lesioned with 6-OHDA to deplete striatal DA and allowed to recover from surgery for 2 months. Animals with stable, amphetamine-induced rotational values, indicating unilateral striatal DA depletion, were assigned to one of two dietary treatments that consisted of custom formulated rat chow with or without 2% BBE. After six weeks of dietary treatment, sub-optimal numbers of primary embryonic (gestational day 14) ventral mesencephalic cells, including the developing midbrain DA neurons, were transplanted into the denervated striatum. Rats were assessed for amphetamine-induced rotational behavior at two week intervals for 8 weeks post-transplantation. Young, BBE-fed rats exhibited fewer rotations per minute than did control-fed rats (P<0.05), indicating the presence of a functional graft. However, no behavioral benefit was noted in either group of aged rats.

Morphological analysis revealed a greater than two-fold increase in DA neuron survival within the grafts in both young and aged BBE-fed rats (P<0.05) as assessed by tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity (THir). BBE-fed animals also tended to have increased transplant areas (P=0.1) with individual graft-derived neurons exhibiting increased THir (P=0.1). These data provide evidence that dietary supplementation of the host with BBE can provide an easily tolerated, non-invasive treatment for the graft recipient that has beneficial effects on neural graft survival and function. Supported by NS 42125 (TJC)

R. Martin, R.J. Coppings, K.E. Gerstmann, J.A. Joseph, A.C. Kokesh, B. Kristal, D. Mathew, B. Sachs, A. Pruchnicki, R. Schnoll, A. Wetherell
R. Martin, MMT Corp., Sherman, CT 06784, R.J. Coppings, Lane College, Jackson, TN 38301, K.E. Gerstmann, NY, NY 10014, J.A. Joseph, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, A.C. Kokesh, Charleston, WV 25301, B. Kristal, Weill Medical College-Cornell University Medical Center, NY, NY 10021 and Burke Medical Research Institute, White Plains, NY 10605, D. Mathew, New Fairfield, CT 06812, B. Sachs, HR Herbs, Sherman, CT 06784, A. Pruchnicki, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY, NY 10029, R. Schnoll, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY 11210, and A. Wetherell, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory, UK. Contact email:

Joseph and collaborators reported in 1999 that blueberry diet supplementation significantly reduced cognitive decline in older laboratory rats. Our research group observed decision-speed improvement during a pilot study with thirteen multiple sclerosis patients (2001). The 2002 Blueberry Health Study was then conducted to determine if blueberries provide health benefits to a larger number of adults, aged 60 and over.
The 2002 study was a sixteen-week randomized, multicenter, crossover trial involving 100 participants and positive and placebo controls. The protocol included four 4-week steps: baseline measurement, treatment period 1, treatment period 2, and post-treatment follow-up.

To begin the study, Connecticut residents were invited to public meetings at the New Fairfield and Mansfield Senior Centers, and to the study web site at Recruitment ended approximately 30 days after newspaper, radio and television announcements were made.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive individually quick frozen wild Maine blueberries (1 cup/day or 10 lbs/month), rice powder (500 mg/day), coenzyme Q10 (30-mg/day) or an antioxidant mixture containing mixed tocopherols (500 IU total/day) plus lipoic acid (25 mg/day). To equalize blueberry and control group expectations, participants were sent email messages citing evidence of health benefits from vitamin E, lipoic acid and our other control supplements. Participants conducted weekly measurements of single-choice decision speed, provided estimates of their aches and pains, energy-level, mood, sharpness, peacefulness, sleep quality, and overall health, and made three separate decision-speed predictions each week to allow expectations and motivation to be measured. Errors and decision speed were recorded before and also after predictions during each measurement session, to provide additional measures of participant expectations and motivation.
Ninety seven participants completed the protocol. Among those receiving wild blueberries, significant improvement occurred in decision speed (t-test p = 0.025) and self-reported aches and pains (p = 0.017), energy level (p = 0.002), sharpness (p = 0.001), sleep quality (p = 0.017), mood (p = 0.010), peacefulness (p = 0.005) and overall health (p = 0.001). Blueberry group response times improved by 4.2%, decreasing from 39.96 to 38.27 centiseconds, more than twice the improvement in the control group. Actual decision speeds were not displayed during the study so speed improvement could not influence self-reported health. Adjustments to balance decision speed predictions, error rates and within-measurement decision-speed improvement (our measures of expectation and motivation) in blueberry and control groups did not significantly change these results. Two blueberry recipients reported hearing improvement that was confirmed by an independent observer, and three reported their prostate serum antigen level declined. Significant changes were not observed in any control group.

Results of this study indicate that blueberries consumed regularly for four weeks can improve a number of health indicators related to aging, including decision speed, aches and pains, and energy level.

We greatly appreciate assistance provided by Bill Holme, Phil Fichandler, Kathy Hull, Marilyn Gerling and many others at the New Fairfield and Mansfield Senior Centers.
Citations: Joseph et al. (1999) J Neurosci. 19(18): 8114-21. Pappas et al. (2001) 30th Ann. Mtg. Amer. Aging Assoc., Abstr. 106.

** If you are interested in more information on Blue Berries, simply send me an email and I will get that research to you.