"Wild Blueberry compounds offer a multi-pronged attack against cancer," said Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Ph.D., lead researcher from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. Other collaborators include John Pezzuto, Ph.D., from the School of Pharmacy, Purdue University, and Muriel Cuendet and Young-Hwa Kang from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, University of Illinois at Chicago.
According to Dr. Lila, cancer begins as a result of an assault on cells by free radicals leading to oxidative stress or inflammation. "We're investigating the potential of natural antioxidants like those found in Wild Blueberries to combat the free radical attack in the body," said Dr. Lila. "What makes it so intriguing is that in addition to free radical scavenging, Wild Blueberries contain other natural components that are simultaneously inhibiting cancer-promoting enzymes and blocking the growth of tumor cells. How these compounds get into the body and the mechanics of how they work is the next frontier."
According to Dr. Lila, these results build on previous work done at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which demonstrated the positive effect of Wild Blueberry proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins on the promotion stage of cancer. (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52:6433-6442, 2004.)
Nature's #1 Antioxidant Fruit(TM)
According to Susan Davis, MS, RD, Nutrition Advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, Dr. Lila's work expands on the importance of Wild Blueberries in helping fend off diseases of aging, like cancer. "Dr. Lila's investigation of specific phytochemicals indicates that different compounds are attacking cancer cells at different stages," said Davis. "This underscores the complexity of whole foods and the importance of eating fruits like Wild Blueberries more regularly."
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 even cultivated blueberries. (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 disease, 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.