The Health Benefits of Blueberry Extract

Blueberries and blueberry juice extract

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Blueberry extract is a natural health supplement made from concentrated blueberry juice. A rich source of nutrients and antioxidants, blueberry extract contains beneficial plant compounds including the flavonol quercetin and anthocyanins, a class of compounds purported to reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease and cancer.

In natural medicine, blueberry extract is said to have a number of health benefits. It is said to boost the health of blood vessels and is often used to treat or prevent the following conditions:

Health Benefits

Although research on the health effects of blueberry extract is fairly limited, some studies suggest that blueberries may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research.

Cognitive Function

Research on blueberries and cognitive function has used fresh blueberries, blueberry powder, or blueberry juice concentrate. In a study published in Food & Function in 2017, researchers examined the cognitive effects of consuming either freeze-dried blueberry powder or a placebo on a group of children between the ages of 7 and 10. Three hours after consuming the blueberry powder, participants completed a cognitive task. Participants who had taken the blueberry powder were found to be significantly faster on the task.

Consuming freeze-dried blueberry may also improve some aspects of cognitive function in adults. In a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, for instance, people between the ages of 60 and 75 consumed either freeze-dried blueberry or a placebo for 90 days. Participants completed tests on cognition, balance, and gait at the beginning and again at days 45 and 90. Those who took blueberry performed better on cognitive tests including task-switching and verbal learning, however, there was no improvement in gait or balance.

Mood

Consuming a blueberry drink may improve subjective well-being, according to a study published in 2017. For the study, children and young adults drank a blueberry drink or a placebo. Participants' mood was assessed before and two hours after drinking the beverages. Researchers found that the blueberry drink increased positive affect, but was found to have little to no effect on negative moods.

Diabetes

Preliminary studies suggest that blueberries may improve insulin resistance and glucose tolerance. In a report published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2018, researchers reviewed previously published clinical trials on blueberry or cranberry consumption on type 2 diabetes glycemic control. In their review, they found that blueberry extract or powder supplementation (providing 9.1 to 9.8 mg of anthocyanins, respectively) for 8 to 12 weeks had a beneficial effect on glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Heart Health

Blueberry supplementation is said to be good for your heart, but the research is mixed. According to a report published in 2017, blueberry extract does not seem to lower blood pressure. Researchers analyzed previously published trials and found no significant effect of blueberry supplementation on blood pressure. In their conclusion, the study's authors recommended further clinical trials to verify the link between blueberry supplements and blood pressure.

Another study found that six weeks of daily blueberry consumption didn't improve blood pressure, however, it did improve endothelial function. The inner lining of the small arteries, the endothelium is involved in many vital functions in the body.

Possible Side Effects

To date, little is known about the safety of long-term use of blueberry extract supplements. Blueberry is safe to consume in the amounts found naturally in food, however, it is unclear how much blueberry extract is safe to consume.

Blueberry extract may lower blood sugar levels. People who are taking diabetes medications should use caution when using blueberry extract. In addition, stop taking blueberry extract at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery as hypoglycemia may occur.

Dosage and Preparation

Blueberry extract comes as capsules, tinctures, powder, and water-soluble extracts and available for purchase at natural-foods stores, drugstores, and online.

There is no standard dose for blueberry extract. More research is needed before determining a safe range. Follow the instructions on the supplement label, which is typically 1 Tbsp. of dried powder, one tablet (containing anywhere from 200 to 400 mg of blueberry concentrate), or 8 to 10 tsp. of blueberry concentrate liquid daily.

What to Look For

Blueberry extract is sourced from either cultivated "highbush" blueberries or the smaller wild "lowbush" blueberries. Opt for organic varieties, which research suggests contain more antioxidants and other nutrients than non-organic fruit.

When selecting a blueberry extract supplement, be sure to check the ingredient list. Many manufacturers add other vitamins, nutrients, or herbal remedies to blueberry extract. Some additions, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid), may boost blueberry extracts effects, while others may interact with medications or cause negative reactions. In particular, supplements that also contain marigold can cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to ragweed or other flowers.  

In addition, check the label for a trusted, independent third-party seal, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Other Questions

What other foods or supplements contain anthocyanins?

Other fruits and vegetables rich in anthocyanins include blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pomegranates, grapes, red onion, radishes, and kidney beans. Supplements with high anthocyanin content are bilberry, acai, chokeberry, tart cherries, and elderberry.

Is taking blueberry extract better for you than eating whole blueberries?

Both whole blueberries and blueberry extract are an abundant source of vitamins and minerals. Depending on the formulation, blueberry extract supplements may contain a higher dose of nutrients than the whole fruit, however, fiber is removed during the extraction process. Blueberries are considered a good source of fiber, with 3.6g in a 1 cup serving. This accounts for 14% of the recommended daily intake of based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. If your diet is already lacking in fiber, whole blueberries may be better for you.

Is blueberry extract the same as blueberry leaf extract?

No, blueberry extract is made from the fruit of the blueberry, while blueberry leaf extract is made from the leaves of the blueberry bush. While the two have some overlapping benefits, they are not the same. The supplement label should clarify if the extract is from fruit or leaf.

A Word From Verywell

While it is too soon to say conclusively that blueberry extract can prevent or treat any medical condition, the research is clear that whole blueberries are a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and important antioxidants. If you are considering supplementing with blueberry extract, talk with your doctor to determine if it is right for you.

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