Blueberries: antioxidant powerhouse?

The grandad of the superfood trend, this cute little North American fruit packs a powerful nutritional punch.

Valued for its high levels of antioxidants, some nutritionists believe that if you make only one change to your diet, it should be to add blueberries.

Die-hards claim blueberries can help protect against heart disease and some cancers, as well as improve your memory.

We've teamed up with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) to examine the evidence to see if blueberries live up to their hype.

Blueberries are a good source of vitamin K. They also contain vitamin C, fibre, manganese and other antioxidants (notably anthocyanins)

The evidence

Heart health
A study in 2012 of 93,000 women found that participants who ate three or more portions of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32% lower risk of a heart attack compared with those who ate berries once a month or less. However, the study could not prove that these fruits definitely caused the lower risk.

Cancer
There is so far very little evidence that blueberries can help protect against cancer. In laboratory studies on cells and animals, blueberry extracts (such as anthocyanins) have been shown to decrease free radical damage that can cause cancer. It is not clear how well humans absorb these compounds from eating blueberries and more research is needed.

Improved memory
A number of small studies have found a link between blueberry consumption and improved spatial learning and memory. However, most of these studies relied on small sample groups or animals. More research is needed to provide a conclusive link between eating blueberries and improved memory.


The dietitian's verdict

Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, says: "Blueberries are a fantastic choice as one of your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. 

"They are low in calories and high in nutrients, including phenolic compounds with an antioxidant capacity significantly higher than vitamins C or E.   

"Try adding them to your breakfast cereal, including them in a packed lunch or mixing with low-fat yoghurt for a delicious dessert."


More on superfoods

Check out the evidence behind the health claims made about these other so-called superfoods:

Page last reviewed: 12/06/2013

Next review due: 12/06/2015

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Comments

The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Wobbler said on 26 August 2014

As a follow up to my previous comments on the apparent positive support of dietary antioxidents, please also look at the following EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) statements backed up by academic and independent research:
Quote: Ref 1
"No human studies that investigated the effects of the consumption of the food(s)/food constituent(s) on reliable markers of oxidative damage to body cells or to molecules such as DNA, proteins and lipids have been provided in relation to any of the health claims evaluated in this opinion.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of the food(s)/food constituent(s) which are the subject of this opinion and the protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage."

Quote: Ref 2
"The antioxidant properties of foods (measured in vitro), and changes in the overall antioxidant
capacity of plasma (measured in vivo as, for example, TRAP, TEAC, FRAP, ORAC or FOX), do not
predict a role of the food/constituent in the protection of body cells and molecules such as DNA,
proteins and lipids from oxidative damage in vivo, and therefore are not suitable outcome measures
for the scientific substantiation of the claimed effect"

Refs:
1 http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1752.htm

2 Guidance on the scientific requirements for health claims related to antioxidants, oxidative damage and cardiovascular health
http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.efsa.europa.eu%2Fen%2Fefsajournal%2Fdoc%2F2474.pdf&ei=aaD8U_HSCKmh0QWttYGACA&usg=AFQjCNHBpjalHFqrsKnBSIH5MWpcFBXPaQ&bvm=bv.73612305,d.d2k

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Wobbler said on 25 August 2014

Given that this is supposed to show proper scientifically based evidence, this page is extremely sloppy. Quoting a study to justify the so-called health benefits of blueberries which states "However, the study could not prove that these fruits definitely caused the lower risk." shows a lack of understanding of the scientific evidence presented.

In fact, it seems that despite the numerous claims made both by manufacturers and, unfortunately, here of the benefits of dietery antioxidents there is no evidence of a scientifically measurable positive effect and there may in fact be negative consequences. I'd suggest whoever wrote this starts by reading the New Scientiss 26 August 2013 article by Caroline Williams "Health myths: Antioxidant pills help you live longer".

A well researched article would also point out that, significantly, in America and Canada, their food agencies have banned any health promoting claims of antioxidants in food or food products or suppliments.the FDA on the grounds of no supporting properly devised scientifically based research showing these claims to be true.

ref:
http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/beware-antioxidant-claims

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pregmary said on 17 July 2013

Bluberries!.My favourite!

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Superfoods: the evidence

We examine the evidence behind the health claims of the most popular superfoods