(NaturalNews) Two recent studies conducted on animals suggest that eating blueberries may contribute to healthier cholesterol levels and help stave off colon cancer. In the first study, conducted by researchers from the Natural Products Utilization Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, hamsters were fed a high-cholesterol diet that either was or was not supplemented with freeze-dried blueberries skins. The hamsters that ate the supplemented diet had LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels 20 percent lower than the hamsters that ate the blueberry-free food.
In the second study, scientists at Rutgers University dosed 18 rats with a toxin intended to induce colon lesions. Half of these rats had a small quantity (40 parts per million) of pterostilbene -- a compound naturally occurring in blueberries -- added to their food. The pterostilbene-treated rats developed 57 percent fewer colon lesions than the rats that had not been so treated.
Much research has been conducted recently on the purported health benefits of blueberries. The berries are known to be high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals known to reduce the risk of some cancers. Laboratory research has supported this hypothesis, as have some animal studies. In addition, animal studies have suggested that dietary consumption of blueberries helps reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and heart disease, decrease the damage caused by strokes, and helps to stave off Alzheimer's disease and other age-related conditions.
Pterostilbene in particular is thought to be one of the primary chemicals that contribute to these effects. Animal studies have linked the chemicals to decreased cognitive impairment due to age, reduction in blood cholesterol and fat levels, and even reductions in blood glucose levels.
Non-organically grown blueberries may contain carcinogenic pesticide residues. The Environmental Working Group recently ranked blueberries at number 31 of 43 fruits and vegetables tested for pesticide residue.