New Research Shows Wild Blueberry Compounds May Fight Off Cancer Cells

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Specific Compound Known as Proanthocyanidins May Be Effective in Cancer Prevention By Acting as Inhibitors of the Promotion Stage of Cancer; Proanthocyanidins May also Aid in Urinary Tract Infection Prevention

Recently published research findings concluded that specific compounds in Wild Blueberries called proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins may be effective inhibitors the promotion stage of cancer (Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52:6433-6442, 2004.)

Additionally, the research indicated that the same compounds might have antiadhesion properties that could play a role in preventing urinary tract infections.

The study was conducted by Mary Ann Lila, Ph.D., from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Amy Howell, Ph.D. of Rutgers Blueberry Cranberry Research Center in New Jersey collaborated on the antiadhesion work.

“The natural plant compounds in Wild Blueberries may be powerful allies in the fight against oxidative stress and inflammation which can lead to cancer, heart disease as well as several other chronic health problems. While we still need in vivo work to test how much of these compounds get into the body and how they work, we do know that the potential benefit could be great,” said Dr. Lila.

According to Dr. Lila, her current research focused on the effect of proanthocyanidin fractions on human prostate cancer cells and mice liver cancer cell lines. “The results were very positive, adding evidence to a growing body of work coming out of our lab investigating Wild Blueberry fractions and their cancer-fighting properties at all stages – initiation, promotion and proliferation.”

Urinary Tract Health

“In terms of antiadhesion, we found the blueberry proanthocyanidins to be very effective,” said Dr. Howell. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, primarily E. coli, adhering to the walls of the bladder or kidney. In earlier studies also conducted at Rutgers, blueberries were found to prevent adhesion of UTI-causing bacteria to bladder cells as a result of the activity of proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins.

“A half-cup of blueberries every day may be a preventative measure to consider for preventing urinary tract infections, but human trials are still necessary to confirm this activity.”

Nature’s #1 Antioxidant FruitTM

According to Susan Davis, MS, RD, Nutrition Advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, Dr. Lila and Dr. Howell’s work builds on the growing body of evidence that fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better, play an important role in fighting off disease. “Dr. Lila and Dr. Howell are doing groundbreaking phytochemical research,” said Davis. “We expect over time that on-going Wild Blueberry research will lead to more exciting discoveries about the power of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.”

Davis noted that recent USDA research findings using the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) measure, ranked Wild Blueberries highest in antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits. The study showed that a one-cup serving of Wild Blueberries had more antioxidant capacity than a serving of cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples and prunes. (Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52:4026-4037, 2004.)

Antioxidants are important in terms of their ability to protect against oxidative cell damage that can lead to conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease – conditions also linked with chronic inflammation. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of blue-purple foods like Wild Blueberries may have the potential to help prevent these diseases.


WBANA is a trade association of growers and processors of Wild Blueberries from Maine, dedicated to bringing the Wild Blueberry health story and unique Wild Advantages to consumers worldwide.


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