Blueberries: Can This Healthy Fruit Lower Cholesterol?

Blueberries. Chrissi Nerantzi - stock.xchng

Blueberries may not be good just to put in muffins anymore - there are actually many health benefits of blueberries. In fact, according to some researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they may be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. 

As with many fruits, vegetables, and other organic foods, blueberries contain chemicals called antioxidants that have been linked to lowering cholesterol levels, encouraging heart health, and protecting the body against certain types of cancers.

Blueberries contain the phytosterol, pterostilbene, which is similar to resveratrol, another antioxidant found in grapes and red wine. Agnes M. Rimando, Ph.D. of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rangaswamy Nagmani, Ph.D., and Dennis R. Feller, Ph.D. at The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are the principal investigators of the effects of blueberries on cholesterol levels.

How Does the Pterostilbene Found in Blueberries Work?

According to experiments performed by Rangaswami Nagmani and Dennis Feller in rat liver cells, pterostilbene binds to the PPAR-alpha (peroxisome proliferator activated) receptor. This receptor is important in reducing the number of cholesterol and other types of lipids in the bloodstream. In fact, pterostilbene is thought to share the same mechanism of action as fibrates, which are a class of cholesterol lowering medications that lower LDL (low density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.

What Does Current Research Suggest About the Pterostilbene Found in Blueberries?

The results obtained so far seem to be positive. In studies conducted in rats, pterostilbene effectively lowers cholesterol. Because it is specific for a particular receptor (PPAR-alpha), it is thought that this could lower the side effects seen with other fibrates.

Additionally, previous studies have indicated that pterostilbene is an effective anti-diabetic agent. This corresponds to studies performed on antioxidants contained in other fruits and vegetables. These chemicals have numerous positive properties, including anti-cancer, memory enhancement, and heart health.

What Are Some Negative Aspects Concerning Pterostilbene?

Nothing has been reported so far. Unfortunately, no studies have been performed in humans, however, research in similar animals have proven to be promising. The main question, besides the effects of pterostilbene in humans, would be the amount humans would need to consume in order to see its therapeutic effects. So far, no one knows the answer for that. While it may range from anywhere between a handful to a truckloadful of blueberries in order to see their cholesterol-lowering effects, we would need more studies to find this out.

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