It is tiny, round and blue and it is an explosive source of nutrients. The blueberry is one of the most nutritious fruits in the world. It is also the subject of one of the latest health breakthroughs in the field of natural foods. Blueberries have been found to lower cholesterol levels.
The health news comes from the laboratory and a study on hamsters. The animals fed rations spiked with blueberry peels and other blueberry-juice-processing leftovers had better cholesterol health than hamsters whose rations weren’t enhanced with blueberries. All early studies begin on animals rather than humans.
In the investigation, hamsters were fed rations with high-fat content. The idea they were testing was whether blueberries could be so strong that they could help offset the cholesterol that came with the high-fat diet. For some animals, those rations were supplemented with one of three different kinds of juice byproducts: 1) blueberry skins; 2) fiber extracted from the peels; or 3) natural compounds known as polyphenols, extracted from the peels. Blueberry polyphenols give the fruit its purple, blue, and red coloration.
In an article published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,” the researchers reported that all hamsters fed blueberry-enhanced rations had between 22% and 27% lower total cholesterol than hamsters fed rations that didn’t contain blueberry juice byproducts.
What’s more: levels of “very low density lipoprotein” (a form of the so-called “bad” cholesterol) were about 44% lower in the blueberry-fed hamsters.
The researchers set out to discover what genetic, cellular reasons might be responsible for these effects. Their approach allowed the scientists to pinpoint differences in the level of activity of certain liver genes.
In hamsters and humans, the liver both makes cholesterol and helps get rid of excessive levels of it. Results suggest that activity of some liver genes that either produce or use cholesterol resulted in the lower blood cholesterol levels.
Of course, some pieces of the cholesterol puzzle are not yet in place. For example, the researchers don’t know which berry compound or compounds activated the liver genes, or which parts of the berry have the highest levels of these compounds.
For now, while we figure everything out, it’s safe to assume that blueberries are very healthy for you. They have been involved in many positive health studies in the past, and this is another great one.