Fight Alzheimer’s, cancer, fatty liver…and more
As a general rule, I don’t eat a lot of fruit. Most of it has too much sugar. Yes, even though the fructose in fruit is natural, it’s still sugar. And, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a sugar by any other name will still wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
But there are exceptions to just about every rule. And berries are the exception to this one.
Berries are low enough in sugar that you can safely eat them every day. And that’s not a bad idea, considering all the new research pouring in on their health benefits.
I’ll tell you about some of the most promising discoveries in just a minute. But first, there are a few particular types of berries that have claimed the spotlight recently.
Color of royalty reigns supreme for your health
Purple berries—like blackberries, black raspberries, and especially blueberries—seem to dominate the current scientific literature. And researchers have traced their impressive benefits back to all of the polyphenols they contain.
Specifically, purple berries are loaded with anthocyanins (which give them their characteristic color) and phenolic acids. Both of these compounds are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
And that makes them vital for brain health, heart health, and immunity. Not to mention protection against cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other serious diseases.
Most of the recent studies on purple berries have focused on blueberries in particular. But there are a growing number of studies on blackberries and black raspberries, too.
So let’s take a look at what’s new in berry research…
Help your brain repair itself
So far, most of the research on berries’ brain benefits has been done on animals. But it’s quite promising, so I look forward to seeing what we find out from human studies. I suspect researchers will discover the same thing—that blueberries help lower the oxidative stress that’s a culprit in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other age-related brain issues.
One study on older rats showed that eating blueberries resulted in substantial improvements in their memory and cognition.3 And several other studies have found that lab animals that ate blueberries had less destruction of brain cells and neurons. In fact, one study showed the animals’ brain tissue actually repaired itself.4
Slow tumor growth by 73%
One study showed that sedentary men and women had increased natural killer cells after just six weeks of consuming a blueberry powder. These cells are key to protecting the body from infections and diseases. Especially cancer.5
That’s borne out in a new animal study in which rats that ate blueberries had a whopping 73% reduction in tumor growth.6
Black raspberries have also been shown in animal studies to inhibit a variety of cancers—including leukemia and cancer of the lung, prostate, colon, and esophagus.
One study found that mice with cancerous tumors that were given a black raspberry root extract lived 70% longer than mice not given the fruit. And their tumors shrunk substantially as well.
The researchers also found that black raspberry healed wounds faster than conventional treatments. They concluded that the fruit has an “immense scope” for curing skin diseases.7
Blackberry extract also helps protect against ultraviolet ray damage and skin cancer, according to research on mice.8
Better blood sugar in just 4 weeks
Several animal studies show blueberry consumption improves glucose metabolism in lab animals—which lowers the risk of diabetes. And now, a human study reports the same results.
Researchers divided 30 overweight or obese men and women, ages 18-70, into two groups. One group got a supplement containing fiber and blueberry polyphenols, and the other got a placebo. After four weeks, the blueberry group had improved blood glucose tolerance and satiety.9 Meaning they lowered their risk factors for both diabetes and obesity.
A new weapon in the war against fatty liver
I’ve written before about how fatty liver is reaching epidemic proportions in this country. And while you don’t hear as much about it, it’s just as dangerous for your health as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, fatty liver, heart disease, and diabetes go hand in hand. All three conditions are common complications of obesity.
In my experience, Glucevia™ is the best option for combatting fatty liver disease. (If you’re not familiar with it, take a few minutes to read the article “The Scandinavian secret solving the ‘missing piece’ to ultimate blood-sugar support” in the April 2014 issue.)
But an interesting new lab study shows that blackberry extract can significantly reduce the risk of fatty liver disease.10 And it’s always good to have backup ammo in the arsenal.
Drop 7 points from your blood pressure in just 8 weeks
A number of studies show blueberries can significantly decrease blood pressure. In one study of postmenopausal women, just eight weeks of blueberry consumption lowered their blood pressure from 138/80 to 131/75.1
And that was with no other lifestyle changes. So imagine if you threw in an extra hour of exercise with your weekly blueberry consumption. Or did something as simple as cutting white bread out of your diet.
Chances are your blood pressure would drop even lower.
Another study showed blueberries can also help reduce fat accumulation in white blood cells—which helps prevent the hardening of the arteries that leads to cardiovascular disease.2
See better, feel better, and get around better with the power of purple berries
Two recent studies showed that blueberries and blackberries can help protect your vision. Compounds in these berries are able to shield the retina against damage caused by UV light.12,13
A study on mice found that black raspberries’ anti-inflammatory effects improved colitis symptoms. The researchers also noted that black raspberries are used in traditional medicine to treat stomach and intestinal ailments in humans.14
And last but certainly not least, a recent study showed that blueberries can help improve something called “functional mobility.” Which is really just the technical term for the kinds of activities and movements you do every day, as a part of daily living.
Researchers gave men and women age 60 or older either a placebo or two cups of frozen blueberries daily for six weeks. Then they tested all study participants’ grip strength, reaction time, and walking ability and speed. They also tested the participants’ executive function, which includes problem solving, memory, and planning and execution of tasks.
The blueberry group scored significantly higher in all of these categories, compared to the placebo group. Researchers noted that this has been backed up in animal studies, making the results even more impressive.11
How to reap the benefits of berries even in the dead of winter
In a couple of months, organic purple berries will be in season, bursting from farmers’ market baskets and grocery store shelves. But what do you do until then? How do you get through the rest of the winter and early spring, when the only berries available are tasteless, expensive, non-organic imports from Mexico?
I recommend getting your daily dose of berries in powder form. Superfood “purples” blends typically contain blueberries, blackberries and black raspberries—often along with other nutritional powerhouses like acai, figs, eggplant, beets, and purple carrots.
Add a scoop of a purples blend to a glass of water to create a tasty juice-like drink—but without all of the sugar and calories found in fruit juices. Or add it to a whey protein shake. You’ll get the same health benefits you get from whole blueberries, blackberries, or black raspberries—no matter what season it is.
1“Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Mar;115(3):369-77.
2“Anthocyanins and phenolic acids from a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) powder counteract lipid accumulation in THP-1-derived macrophages.” Eur J Nutr. 2015 Jan 17.
3“The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing.” Br J Nutr. 2015 Nov;114(10):1542-9
4“Blueberry treatment decreased D-galactose-induced oxidative stress and brain damage in rats.” Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Jun;30(3):793-802.
5“Six weeks daily ingestion of whole blueberry powder increases natural killer cell counts and reduces arterial stiffness in sedentary males and females.” Nutr Res. 2014 Jul;34(7):577-84.
6“Anti-tumor activity of a polysaccharide from blueberry.” Molecules. 2015 Feb 27;20(3):3841-53.
7“Antitumor and wound healing properties of Rubus niveus Thunb. root.” J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2014;33(2):145-58.
8“Blackberry extract inhibits UVB-induced oxidative damage and inflammation through MAP kinases and NF-κB signaling pathways in SKH-1 mice skin.” Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2015 Apr 1;284(1):92-9.
9“Gastrointestinal microbiome modulator improves glucose tolerance in overweight and obese subjects: A randomized controlled pilot trial.” J Diabetes Complications. 2015 Nov-Dec;29(8):1272-6.
10“Anthocyanin-rich extracts from blackberry, wild blueberry, strawberry, and chokeberry: antioxidant activity and inhibitory effect on oleic acid-induced hepatic steatosis in vitro.” J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Aug 6.
11“Effects of blueberry supplementation on measures of functional mobility in older adults.” Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 Jun;40(6):543-9.
12“The protective effects of berry-derived anthocyanins against visible light-induced damage in human retinal pigment epithelial cells.” J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Mar 30;95(5):936-44.
13“Visible Light-Induced Lipid Peroxidation of Unsaturated Fatty Acids in the Retina and the Inhibitory Effects of Blueberry Polyphenols.” J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Oct 28;63(42):9295-305.
14“Anti-inflammatory effect of a standardized triterpenoid-rich fraction isolated from Rubus coreanus on dextran sodium sulfate-induced acute colitis in mice and LPS-induced macrophages.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Dec 2;158 Pt A:291-300.