Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Research: Beneficial Effects of Blueberries

Although I do not usually comment on the masses of studies treating animal MS-like disease, as they always seem to work. As I am sure this will hit the news stands, todays menu of treatments serves up blueberries

Xin J, Feinstein DE, Hejna MJ, McGuire SO. Beneficial Effects of Blueberries in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jan. [Epub]

Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) is an animal model of autoimmune disease which presents with pathological and clinical features similar to those of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) including inflammation and neurodegeneration. We investigated whether blueberries, which possess immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, could provide protection in EAE. Dietary supplementation with 1% whole, freeze-dried blueberries reduced disease incidence by greater than 50% in a chronic EAE model (p<0.01). When blueberry-fed mice with EAE were compared with control-fed mice with EAE, blueberry-fed mice had significantly lower motor disability scores (p=0.03) as well as significantly greater myelin preservation in the lumbar spinal cord (p=0.04). In a relapsing-remitting EAE model, blueberry-supplemented mice showed improved cumulative and final motor scores compared to control diet-fed mice (p=0.01, 0.03, respectively). These data demonstrate that blueberry supplementation is beneficial in multiple EAE models, suggesting that blueberries, which are easily administered orally and well-tolerated, may provide benefit to MS patients

Berries=Natural Pills?

1% of blueberries (1g in 100g of food) in the mouse food, apparently equivalent to a cup of blueberries a day stopped some animals from getting disease and reduced the severity of disease in animals that got disease. Looking at the data it would suggest that there may be a more marked effect at sparing nerve damage compared to stopping disease from occurring.

How does this work?

It is not clear, the authors suggest that it may be polyphenols and notably flavinoids in the berries that are active. Whilst some flavinoids have been shown to have some effect on models of multiple sclerosis. Interestingly it appears also that blueberries (and red grapes but not red wine) contain a phenol chemical called resveratol. This has been shown to limit the development of EAE and notably nerve loss in a number of studies using pharmaceutical resveratol. Could this be the answer?, who knows?, but blueberries have anti-oxidant properties, which could be useful

Is this one of the coloured foods to eat?

Generally I would recommend getting drugs from Docs and Neuros rather than the greengrocers (pharmaceutical drugs usually have more potency than natural nutriceuticals) but many pharmaceutical drugs have their origins in plants. Let us see where this line of research goes!


  1. I was going to save this question for one of the open question posts, but it seems appropriate for this post.

    Does ibuprofen have a "greater than zero" (may be miniscule, but still does something) effect on MS inflammation? I'm not suggesting anyone take ibuprofen to treat MS, I was just wondering about the science.

    If we're talking about blueberries we may as well talk about over the counter drugs sold specifically to reduce inflammation.

    1. Stewed blueberries in their own juices without water for 10-15 minutes. let simmer, strain and drink the warm liquid. have not had relapse of MS in 11 years.

  2. Hello Matt,

    I have SPMS and some mornings I feel very stiff, much more so than normal, my leg muscles ache even after stretching them and mentally I feel quite low. Sometimes I take a couple of 200mg Ibruprofan tablets and I do then feel better, the aches and pains subside; I'm sure it isn't psychological

    I know its not a cure but...

    1. Ironically, I did the same thing today and i felt much better. the overall stiffness was a lot better. My leg muscles feel "swollen' and taking ibuprofen makes sense since it is an anti-inflammatory. After having a really bad charlie horse and then seeing my massage therapist friend she told me the muscle felt swollen. it was an Ah-Ha moment. Pieces fell into place. Doing more reading about it now too.

  3. Oh dear, MouseDoctor knows not very well briefed in nutrition is he? Is he really serious in suggesting that a drug can supply in a bioavailable manner the same protective qualities as blueberries. And is the comment about "Do you have any Ribena Experiences?" meant to be humorous or sarcastic? I suggest ignorance - Ribena is made of blackcurrants, not blueberries.

  4. In terms of beneficial actions of Ibuprofen (Advil US- Neurofen-UK) there have not been studies in the furry beasts as an anti-inflammatory to see how it compares to the blueberries, but there are reports that it does not stop the development of lesions in relapsing MS.

    But I would expect that over the counter precriptions drugs would not have the power of disease modifying drugs in that aspect even it it were anti-inflammatory

    It is used with beta interferons to try and limit the flu-like symptoms of interferons but we (Dr. Mand M) are not aware of other studies such as whether it has been looked at say for progression, but as Patrick says it may help with certain pains.

    There is a theorectical value for other apsects of the disease process but as is usual there is no evidence one way or the other and the chance of a definative study looking at this is slim as there is no money to be made what ever the result

  5. Dear Brightangel

    Yes you are correct I am not briefed in nutrition as well as other things

    But a drug could indeed supply the same or actually better protection (in our hands) than the fruit did in this study. However I found the results interesting maybe something in it.

    Yes it was late when I did this and black currants it is, so humour fell ho.

  6. Have deleted the ribena question so new viewers will wonder what you are talking about.

  7. RE: "Ibuprofen"

    In other neurodegenerative diseases, the regular intake of ibuprofen, may delay disease onset, e.g. Parkinson's disease. The downside is that ibuprofen may increase your risk of vascular events, in particular myocardial infarction.

    1. Only in high doses, and only in people who have had MI events and are on blood thinners.

      The spate of NSAID = venous thromboembolism articles tend to be vague and misleading.
      "the researchers attribute most of the risk to COX2 inhibitors..."
      Currently the only COX-2 inhibitor available in the United States is celecoxib (Celebrex).

  8. A person asked for comment on the recent Australian study findings relating to sunshine and EBV. I have not seen a reply to that question.

    Secondly, a housekeeping issue. Questions and Answers appear out of order and appear to have have been detached from the threat that they relate to. Is there a better way of keeping the Q & A's together?

  9. Thanks for the replies to my Ibuprofen question.

  10. Dear Brightangel
    Re Housekeeping.

    Question and answers should stay to together on the same thread if you ensure that you are clicked onto the post your believe you are responding to as it appears that some your posts are being associated with the wrong thread.

    Best way is to close comment box after you post on one post/tread
    Then click on comments on the next post to open dialogue box again
    this way it will stay together and you will know exactly where you are. Hope this solves this..

    As for random posts unrelated to thread, this is why we gave you a spot to post unrelated comments. However we can not make people use this so random comments continue to appear in posts.

    I believe your comment above relates to the post on Genetics by Ram (DocotrVD) and not blue berries. I believe he has answered the question.

    However, please do not expect instant answers to questions posed. We have day jobs to attend to first and foremost. Some times it needs time to research answer comments.Sometimes other members of Team G are better placed to answer.

    Sometimes we will make a post based on the comment because many of the bloggers do not get the comments delivered e.g. google reader, this takes time.

    Sometimes we choose not to answer comments. For example you may note that we do not take comments on CSSVI posts anymore. This was based on the abuse we recieved and other antics that we will not go in to.

  11. Would blueberries have a similiar effect on dogs with degenerative myelopathy?

  12. I have a dog in the early stages of DM and I am going to try this. I think a cup a day would be enough to see if there are any effects. He is 70 pounds. Any opinions would be appreciated.

    1. I would be put in the Nick if I did this without ethical approval, dogs are carnivorves, I know you have veggie dogs thats not the point.

      However with n=1 (group of one how will you know? If it stops every thing getting worse then maybe but if it only slows the process how would you know what would have happened without the blue berriers.
      You would need another similar dog but without the active drug, this is the basis for clinical trials.

      This is why proper control trials are needed because anecdote is

  13. will dried blueberries reduce ms?

    1. Based on the biology of resveratol you would need to having kilos and kilos of them. So enjoy them as food

  14. Over the last 12 months I have developed many ms symptoms. The worst have been severe back pain on standing (quadratus lumborum muscles) slow walking , difficult balance, sharp stabbing pains and cramps, and numbness in lower legs. After taking 3 ibruprofen in the am followed up with 2 at lunchtime and 2 at dinner, I have a remarkable change in symptoms. My back pain has gone, I walk faster, I am better balanced , numbness 90% gone and sharp stabbing pains have gone. Thank you ibuprofen.

  15. These are important comments about the benefits of anything anti-inflammatory for MS. I have a very close friend who has MS. Over the last ten years she was on Avonex, but recently had her second set of symptoms. I have thought a lot about the effects of the strong steriods (and how sick they made her) and thought why the big guns of steroids to repair instead of the little guns of motrin to prevent MS flairs, right?


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