A handful of blueberries is a nutritious snack, and their deep color adds interest to a bowl of fruit or cereal. While blueberries do contain fiber as well as vitamins such as C, K and B6, and minerals like phosphorous and manganese, they also contain several phytochemicals that you don't hear much about. These phytochemicals, or plant compounds, along with the nutritional value of the vitamins and minerals, give that handful of blueberries a heap of health benefits.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that are commonly related to aging. Memory loss, inability to control emotions and confusion can all be part of the onset of dementia. Instead of accepting it as inevitable, keep your brain sharp and fight age-related brain problems by increasing your consumption of blueberries. Blueberries contain plant pigments called anthocyanins, and these compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, according to a study published in the April 14, 2010, "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." These anthocyanins also help increase brain signals and memory function. In the study, performed by the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center in Cincinnati, subjects were given blueberry juice for 12 weeks, at the end of which, noted benefits were improved learning ability, memory skills and blood sugar levels. Fewer symptoms of depression were also noted.
Reducing Cancer Risk
Blueberries also contain plant compounds called pterostilbenes, which are high in antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect the body from the effects of free radicals, which are molecules that can damage other cells and promote diseases such as cancer and heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Along with antioxidant properties, pterostilbenes have antiproliferative properties, which means they have the ability to slow and stop the growth of cancer cells. In the May 2010 issue of the "Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery," a study conducted at the University of Vermont reports that when pancreatic cancer was tested against pterostilbenes, the cancerous cell growth not only slowed down, the cancer cells actually died.
The National Institutes of Health conducted a study which examined how a diet rich in blueberries might affect heart health. The study, conducted on rats and published in the June 2009 issue of "PLoS One," showed that the blueberry-rich diet helped reduce inflammation within the heart and also reduced the risk of heart attack and heart failure.
Eating blueberries not only protects your body from the inside, it can also offer protection for the outside. One of the main causes of skin damage is sun exposure, specifically the sun's UV-B rays. These rays cause premature aging and wrinkling by damaging the skin's structure and destroying the skin's collagen. Researchers at the Department of Food and Nutrition and Korean Institute of Nutrition in Korea found that when skin cells were exposed to an extract from edible blueberries, it helped stop the degradation of the skin's collagen. The study, published in the June 2009 issue of "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research," states that it is the anthocyanins in blueberries that are responsible for protecting the skin.
- PubMed: Abstract: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Blueberry supplementation improves memory
- National Institutes of Health: Antioxidants
- PubMed: Abstract: Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery: Pterostilbene inhibits pancreatic cancer
- PubMed: Abstract: PLoS One: Blueberry-enriched diet protects rat heart from ischemic damage
- PubMed: Abstract: Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: Bog blueberry anthocyanins alleviate photoaging
A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."