Anthocyanins, Bilberry, and Your Health

Blueberries and bilberries have been high on my list of nutrient packed fruits that also have a tremendous ability to modulate my health.  They are both fruits that I consume in the raw or natural form for breakfast everyday, and then in the evening, their powdered form is used in a protein smoothie.  Anthocyanins are the main chemical present within these two fruits, being more concentrated in bilberry fruit, which has tremendous health benefits on many levels.  When it comes to our health, yours and mine, no matter what the condition is we are facing, there is a very good chance that inflammation and oxidative stress are playing a major role.  Through the daily consumption of bilberry and blueberries, you can provide a moderate dose of anthocyanins to help aid your body’s defense mechanisms.

Bilberries, Blueberries, and Your Health
Bilberries, Blueberries, and Your Health

A few years ago, while doing some research, I came across an old research article, actually funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, hoping to provide a push to the blueberry industry.  You will see these efforts for various aspects of agriculture, in the attempt to boost business for farmers and the agriculture industry.  Most notable in recent years was the push for milk.  In either case, there were two researchers involved, predating one another and the work involved.  The most recent was Dr. James Joseph and prior to him was Dr. Frederick Coville, both USDA scientists, working about 100 years apart but having similar conclusions.  The final work which was completed outlined how blueberries and other similar fruits, could be used to potentially prevent and even reverse some cognitive and neurodegenerative conditions.  The research findings by both scientists was quite remarkable and pointed to the high potential for blueberries and other similar fruits to be used as preventative agents for overall health, but mainly focusing on neurodegenerative conditions. (Shukkit, 2012)

At the time of reading that article, as a veterinarian, we were using both bilberry and blueberry fruit powder in many herbal blends for horses with metabolic and weight related conditions with great success.  However, this article pointed me towards other benefits, documented heavily in research, regarding the true potential for these two fruits.

What makes bilberries and blueberries so powerful for your health?

Fruits and some vegetables have tremendous colors to them, which are generally attributed to chemical present within the fruit.  In most cases, these chemicals are potent antioxidants in one form or another.  In the case of bilberries and blueberries, the purple pigmentation you see is attributed to phytochemicals called flavanols, most notably being anthocyanins.  These chemicals are potent antioxidants, naturally present and produced by the fruit itself as a means of internal protection against disease, injury, and to ward off pests.  However, when consumed by us, as humans, those chemicals can be literal powerhouses of protection, helping our bodies to mend and recover against the ongoing process of inflammation and oxidative stress.  These two process are likely connected with over 90% of all health conditions impacting us as humans, from diabetes to cancer and everything in between.  Don’t believe me?  Read deeper on any medical condition you may find yourself facing.

Most health conditions and even the process of aging, are associated with chronic inflammation and free radical production in our body, which contributes heavily to cellular damage and dysfunction.  Under normal circumstances, our body is capable of providing a defense against this attack, but in many instances, that defense attempt is too weak and the invading attack dominates leading to disease.  Outside of internal defense mechanisms in our body, the only other option is consuming foods that are high in antioxidant potential, which brings us back to fruits and vegetable consumption.  Blueberries and bilberries are high on my list, being consumed daily in both raw and powder form, along with other fruits and vegetables.  Through their consumption, I am able to routinely fortify my body with powerful anthocyanins and other phytochemicals to help protect and rebuild my body.  I wouldn’t go a day without them, but there is so much more to these fruits!

In addition to their powerful phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, these fruits have an abundance of nutrients and fiber, which can and does impact our digestive microbiome.  Keep in mind that digestive health is likely one of the biggest connectors with our overall health.  If digestion is not operating at 100%, then likely the rest of your body isn’t either.  One published study outlined how daily blueberry consumption altered the digestive microbiome, favoring a reduction in inflammation and improving insulin function. (Lee, 2018)

Other notable benefits of blueberry and bilberry consumption:

  • Improved digestion and microbiome health
  • Improved blood sugar activity or hypoglycemic effects (Huang, 2018)
  • Antidiabetic properties and benefits (Stull, 2016)
  • Impact on nerve and brain function/ neuronal aging  (Shukkit, 2012)
  • Neuroprotective effects  (Kelly, 2017)
  • Prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes  (Rozanska, 2018)
  • Anti-cancer properties  (Johnson, 2013)

One research article summed it up by concluding that daily or routine consumption of anthocyanin rich blueberries or other fruit was associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, overall death rate, and reduced type 2 diabetes, with an improved body weight and neuroprotection.  (Kalt, 2020)

So, one might ask, ‘have you got milk?’.  Well, my response to that question is “no, don’t touch the stuff, but I do have my blueberries and bilberries!

Looking to fortify your regimen with powerful anthocyanins?  Check out our Bilberry Fruit 1.5% Anthocyanin blend!

 

Author:  Tom Schell, D.V.M, CVCH, CHN

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