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Berry Season

June 14, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Summertime is berry-time. This year, several encouraging studies have accompanied the seasonal influx of these succulent fruits. My Healthy Monday tip of the week is to include more fresh and frozen berries in your diet in the hope of reducing the risk of blood sugar and cardiovascular danger (metabolic syndrome), liver dysfunction, poor cognition and various forms of cancer.

While scouring through the medical literature, I came across five reasons why many of us should include more richly pigmented foods such as berries in our daily diets. Some of the greatest health threats currently affecting mankind appear to be directly influenced by naturally occurring phytochemicals in this family of fruit.

Blueberries May Improve Age-Related Memory Decline

A study presented in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry evaluated the effects of “daily consumption of wild blueberry juice in a sample of nine older adults with early memory changes”. The 12 week intervention determined that blueberry juice intake improved a few key aspects of cognitive functioning – associate learning and word list recall. As an added bonus, the researchers noted a reduction in depressive symptoms and a decline in blood sugar levels. (1)

Berries vs. Breast Cancer

Two recent publications appearing in the journals Cancer Research and Cancer Prevention Research indicate that: a) blueberry extracts effectively reduced breast tumor growth and tumor weight in a mouse model of breast cancer; b) rats fed a diet rich in black raspberries, blueberries and ellagic acid (a component found in many berries) also “suppressed mammary tumor incidence (10-30%), volume (41%-67%), and multiplicity (38%-51%)”. The secondary study determined that the berries and ellagic acid specifically inhibited the levels of estrogen metabolizing enzymes which play a pivotal role in the early stages of breast cancer formation. (2,3)

Berries vs. Stomach Cancer

An investigation of 230 patients with gastric cancer and 547 patients who were cancer-free established a strong connection between high intakes of fruits rich in flavonoids and proanthocyanidins and a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Food frequency questionnaires and “unconditional logistic regression models” were used to compare the diets of the respective groups of study volunteers. A risk reduction of between 56% to 64% was found when comparing patients with the highest intake of flavonoids and proanthocyanidins to the those in the lowest quintile. (4)

Berries vs. Colon Cancer

A 4-year study known as the Polyp Prevention Trial was recently completed. It assessed the relative impact of a low fat, high-fiber, high-fruit and vegetable diet in relation to pre-cancerous polyps. A sub-analysis looked for specific dietary components in 872 patients who participated in the original intervention. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute discovered that several flavonoids commonly found in berries (isorhamnetin, kaempferol, and quercetin) were associated with lower levels of a proinflammatory substance known as IL-6 (interleukin-6) which serves as a risk indicator for colorectal cancer. This suggests that higher berry consumption may protect against cellular activity that is consistent with colon cancer development. (5)

Proposed Mechanisms by Which Berries Impact Cognitive Functioning
Source: Genes Nutr. 2009 December; 4(4): 243–250. (link)

One of the more compelling aspects of berries is their unique ability to affect the body in a slightly different way than many other fruits. An example can found when examining the effects of fructose intake on liver health. Ingesting large amounts of “fruit sugar” or fructose can encourage the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And berries, like all other fruits, contain some fructose. But they don’t seem to adversely affect liver. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

The June 2010 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that the addition of 6 ounces of northern berries to the diets of 28 diabetic women resulted in a significant benefit in liver function. The trial lasted a total of 20 weeks and included a comparison or control group of 30 women who did not consume any added berries. A 23% improvement in a liver function marker, ALAT or aminotransferase, was noted in the berry group alone. There was also a significant elevation in adiponectin concentrations which is suggestive of improved blood sugar control and cardiovascular health – collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome. (6,7)

I hope today’s column will inspire you to go out buy some fresh berries in the coming weeks. But don’t just buy any berries. Look for organic varieties, as many conventionally grown berries contain unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues. If you can’t afford or find fresh, organic berries then look for “fresh frozen” varieties that are available year round. They’re more economical and function beautifully in many recipes including homemade fruit preserves and superfood smoothies. (8)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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Posted in Food and Drink, Memory, Nutrition

19 Comments & Updates to “Berry Season”

  1. anne h Says:

    A “berry” good report!
    (Sorry – I couldn’t resist!)

  2. JP Says:

    Ha! No worries. I’ll take it! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good Morning, JP :-)

    …and i’m a berry-strong girl ;-)

    my fav desert (my pic, done this week)

    http://img.makeupalley.com/1/4/8/8/1655972.JPG

    Greetings,
    Nina K:

  4. Sai Says:

    Good Morning JP!

    Connection between berries and liver health on diabetics is a very good research! Problem is finding and affording organic berries. When you mention frozen berries, do you mean organic frozen berries? I have had good success with berries, but going to try organic and frozen versions more. Thanks again for a very good post.

    Best Regards

    Sai

  5. Dave Says:

    Just remember. All things in moderation. Berries contain high amounts of sugar. This equates to acid that your body has to deal with. I am not disagreeing with the healthy parts of the berries. By all means have some. Just do not eat them for breakfast lunch and dinner.

    Dave

  6. JP Says:

    I believe it, Nina! :)

    Great colors in that photo! Love it!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. JP Says:

    Sai,

    Yes. Organic frozen berries are a good way to go, IMO. They’re typically frozen just after they’re picked and often retain comparable levels of antioxidants and nutrients. Plus, they’re available year round. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  8. JP Says:

    Dave,

    Agreed. Fruits are best eaten in moderation, IMO.

    When I do eat fruit, it’s most often one type of berry or another. I also include berry extracts in my supplement routine.

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Nina K. Says:

    Hello JP :-)

    don’t know where to post this *sorry* but i have to tell you what i done a few minutes ago:

    *tadaaa* my first homemade and (relative) low carb banana ice cream (will do that with frozen berries the next days) :-) its so unbeliveable delicous and easy to prepare, not longer than 5 minutes
    http://img.makeupalley.com/1/4/8/8/1670759.JPG
    http://img.makeupalley.com/1/4/8/8/1670758.JPG

    used one banana (90gramm) cut into small peaces and put in the freezer ( i did that yesterday evening). Today i put the frozen peaces in my food processor and added a little bit of almond milk, i think it was about 50-90 mls thats it. The next time i will add walnuts to the banana ice cream.

    Will try that with coconut milk too soon…it sooooo yummy! :-)

    Greetings,
    Nina K.

  10. JP Says:

    Looks great, Nina! :)

    The simpler the recipe, the better, IMO.

    I’ll bet the coconut milk will be very tasty as well. Please keep us posted on your ice cream adventure! ;)

    Be well!

    JP

  11. Jane Clemson Says:

    I LOVE blueberries, but cannot stand the artificial blueberry flavor. My favorite is to eat them with some milk and heavy cream. I have blueberry bushes in my backyard I found out but I’ve been having my dog use them as a toilet for the last year :(

  12. JP Says:

    Jane,

    I can’t speak to the dog issue … but I can tell you that the benefits noted with real blueberries do not extend to artificial blueberry flavors. So keep eating the real thing. But maybe build a fence around the blueberry bushes? :)

    Be well!

    JP

  13. Sai Says:

    Good Day JP!

    I think i read somewhere that Blueberries when mixed with Milk lose their antioxidant capabilities! Jp, may be you could confirm on that.

    Best Regards

    Sai.

  14. JP Says:

    Good day, Sai!

    That’s a real possibility. I reported on that research here:

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/178/blueberry-science/

    Be well!

    JP

  15. Sai Says:

    Good Day JP!

    I missed that one. I wanted to ask you this. How would cherry fare with the morning protein shake(with Milk). I add cherries as it helps to reduce uric acid in blood and they also have highest ORAC. I mix them with berries in the shake. Awaiting your insights.

    Best Regards

    Sai

  16. JP Says:

    Sai,

    I’m unaware of any specific research investigating the interplay between cherries and dairy products. Still there could some effect due to the fact that blueberries and cherries contain similar antioxidant phythochemicals. Some research has also found that antioxidants in cocoa and tea may be adversely impacted by milk co-administration.

    To be on the safe side, you might want to consider using (unsweetened) almond milk instead of cow’s milk. This can easily be made at home or purchased in some health food stores and markets.

    Be well!

    JP

  17. ellen Says:

    I found your page and questions very informative
    Thanks Looking forward to more.

    Ellen & her Angels

  18. JP Says:

    Thank you, Ellen. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  19. JP Says:

    Updated 07/20/15:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666315003220

    Appetite. 2015 Jul 7;95:132-137.

    An afternoon snack of berries reduces subsequent energy intake compared to an isoenergetic confectionary snack.

    Observational studies suggest that increased fruit and vegetable consumption can contribute to weight maintenance and facilitate weight loss when substituted for other energy dense foods. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to assess the effect of berries on acute appetite and energy intake. Twelve unrestrained pre-menopausal women (age 21 ± 2 y; BMI 26.6 ± 2.6 kg m-2; body fat 23 ± 3%) completed a familiarisation trial and two randomised experimental trials. Subjects arrived in the evening (∼5pm) and consumed an isoenergetic snack (65 kcal) of mixed berries (BERRY) or confectionary sweets (CONF). Sixty min later, subjects consumed a homogenous pasta test meal until voluntary satiation, and energy intake was quantified. Subjective appetite (hunger, fullness, desire to eat and prospective food consumption) was assessed throughout trials, and for 120 min after the test meal. Energy intake was less (P<0.001) after consumption of the BERRY snack (691 ± 146 kcal) than after the CONF snack (824 ± 172 kcal); whilst water consumption was similar (P=0.925). There were no trial (P>0.095) or interaction (P>0.351) effects for any subjective appetite ratings. Time taken to eat the BERRY snack (4.05 ± 1.12 min) was greater (P<0.001) than the CONF snack (0.93 ± 0.33 min). This study demonstrates that substituting an afternoon confectionary snack with mixed berries decreased subsequent energy intake at dinner, but did not affect subjective appetite. This dietary strategy could represent a simple method for reducing daily energy intake and aiding weight management.

    Be well!

    JP

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