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Blueberry Extract

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated July 19, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Blueberry extract is a natural substance sold in supplement form. Said to offer a range of health benefits, blueberry extract is often touted as a rich source of antioxidants. These antioxidants include anthocyanins, a class of compounds purported to reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease and cancer.

Why Do People Use Blueberry Extract?

Blueberry extract is typically used to treat or prevent the following conditions:

In addition, blueberry extract is said to offer anti-aging benefits.

Benefits of Blueberry Extract

Although research on the health effects of blueberry extract is fairly limited, some studies suggest that blueberry extract may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

1) Diabetes

Findings from laboratory research and animal-based studies indicate that blueberry extract may aid in diabetes management. In a 2009 study published in Phytomedicine, for instance, scientists found that treating diabetic mice with blueberry extract helped lower blood sugar levels.

2) High Blood Pressure

Blueberry extract may help keep blood pressure in check, according to an animal-based study published in Nutrition Research in 2009. In tests on rats, researchers discovered that blueberry extract helped prevent the development of high blood pressure. In addition, blueberry extract appeared to reduce oxidative stress (a major contributor to heart disease).

3) Alzheimer's Disease

Animal-based research suggests that blueberry extract shows promise for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. For example, a 2010 study on rats (published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry) found that blueberry extract helped shield the animals' brains from the toxic effects of amyloid-beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).

4) Blueberry Extract and Cancer

Some preliminary studies show that blueberry extract may help fight breast cancer. These studies include a 2010 report published in Cancer Research, in which scientists found that blueberry extract helped inhibit the growth of cancerous breast tumors in mice. In a test-tube study published in Phytotherapy Research the same year, anthocyanins extracted from blueberries appeared to slow the growth of breast cancer cells.

Safety

To date, little is known about the safety of long-term use of blueberry extract supplements. However, since blueberry extract may lower blood sugar levels, it's important to take caution when using these supplements in combination with diabetes medication.

Learn more about safe use of dietary supplements.

Alternatives to Blueberry Extract

A number of other natural remedies also contain anthocyanins. These include bilberry, acai, chokeberry, tart cherries, and elderberry.

In addition, you can increase your intake of anthocyanins by consuming whole blueberries (as well as other types of berries, red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, and grapes).

Where To Find Blueberry Extract

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing blueberry extract can be found in many natural-foods stores and drugstores.

Sources

Adams LS, Phung S, Yee N, Seeram NP, Li L, Chen S. "Blueberry phytochemicals inhibit growth and metastatic potential of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells through modulation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase pathway." Cancer Res. 2010 May 1;70(9):3594-605.

Brewer GJ, Torricelli JR, Lindsey AL, Kunz EZ, Neuman A, Fisher DR, Joseph JA. "Age-related toxicity of amyloid-beta associated with increased pERK and pCREB in primary hippocampal neurons: reversal by blueberry extract." J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Oct;21(10):991-8.

Faria A, Pestana D, Teixeira D, de Freitas V, Mateus N, Calhau C. "Blueberry anthocyanins and pyruvic acid adducts: anticancer properties in breast cancer cell lines." Phytother Res. 2010 Dec;24(12):1862-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3213.

Grace MH, Ribnicky DM, Kuhn P, Poulev A, Logendra S, Yousef GG, Raskin I, Lila MA. "Hypoglycemic activity of a novel anthocyanin-rich formulation from lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton." Phytomedicine. 2009 May;16(5):406-15.

Lau FC, Bielinski DF, Joseph JA. "Inhibitory effects of blueberry extract on the production of inflammatory mediators in lipopolysaccharide-activated BV2 microglia." J Neurosci Res. 2007 Apr;85(5):1010-7.

Martineau LC, Couture A, Spoor D, Benhaddou-Andaloussi A, Harris C, Meddah B, Leduc C, Burt A, Vuong T, Mai Le P, Prentki M, Bennett SA, Arnason JT, Haddad PS. "Anti-diabetic properties of the Canadian lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium Ait." Phytomedicine. 2006 Nov;13(9-10):612-23.

McIntyre KL, Harris CS, Saleem A, Beaulieu LP, Ta CA, Haddad PS, Arnason JT. "Seasonal phytochemical variation of anti-glycation principles in lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)." Planta Med. 2009 Feb;75(3):286-92.

Papandreou MA, Dimakopoulou A, Linardaki ZI, Cordopatis P, Klimis-Zacas D, Margarity M, Lamari FN. "Effect of a polyphenol-rich wild blueberry extract on cognitive performance of mice, brain antioxidant markers and acetylcholinesterase activity." Behav Brain Res. 2009 Mar 17;198(2):352-8.

Shaughnessy KS, Boswall IA, Scanlan AP, Gottschall-Pass KT, Sweeney MI. "Diets containing blueberry extract lower blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rats." Nutr Res. 2009 Feb;29(2):130-8.

Torri E, Lemos M, Caliari V, Kassuya CA, Bastos JK, Andrade SF. "Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties of blueberry extract (Vaccinium corymbosum)." J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;59(4):591-6.

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