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!