(NaturalNews) Native Americans have traditionally used dried chokeberries that grow in eastern deciduous forests of the U.S. to make teas. The plants are also used as landscape plantings throughout much of the country and a variety of birds like to feast on the bright red and dark purple fruits from chokeberry bushes. Now it turns out the plant, known by the botanical name Aronia, could be an important source of health benefits --- including a natural way to fight the battle of the bulge.
New research shows chokeberries have unusually high levels of substances called anthocyanins (from the Greek words antho and kyanos meaning dark blue) that are powerful antioxidants. These natural phytochemicals may protect the body from exposure to pollution and metabolically-derived free radicals. What's more, chokeberry anthocyanins appear to have potent anti-inflammatory properties that improve blood sugar and the function of insulin and also halt excessive weight gain.
Those are the conclusions of Drs. Bolin Qin and Richard Anderson from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland, who studied prediabetic rats that were fed chokeberry extract for an extended period of time. Their research findings were recently presented at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting held in Anaheim, California, in April as part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition.
The researchers first induced a "prediabetic" condition in 18 male rats by feeding them a fructose-rich diet for 6 weeks. Then they gave half of the animals pure drinking water while the others drank water containing high levels of chokeberry extract. After six weeks, the two groups of lab rats were compared to check for changes in body weight, body fat, blood glucose regulation, and molecular markers for inflammation.
The results showed the rats who drank the chokeberry-spiked water weighed less than the controls. They also had less body fat (specifically, they had less fat in the lower abdominal region), lower blood glucose and reduced levels of plasma triglycerides, cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, also known as "bad" cholesterol) when compared to the control animals.
Although human studies are needed, the animal research suggests chokeberry extract could lead to naturally-derived therapies that aid weight control and also lower the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in people. It might also reduce chronic inflammation and perhaps even lower cancer risk, according to a media statement by the scientists. They pointed out that in the animals experiment, drinking chokeberry extract lowered expression of the gene coding for interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein that normally triggers inflammation following trauma or infection and that is thought to play a role in the development of a host of human diseases -- including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and atherosclerosis.
Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.