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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Blueberries 'lower cholesterol'
Blueberries
Other studies suggest blueberries may fight cancer and diabetes
Blueberries could provide an alternative way to lower cholesterol, according to US researchers.

A compound in the fruits acted as effectively as a commercial drug used to reduce levels of the "bad" form of cholesterol in rodents.

Although the results are preliminary, the Department of Agriculture team thinks the antioxidant ingredient could be developed as a treatment.

They presented their findings to an American Chemical Society meeting.

Antioxidant

Dr Agnes Rimando and her team studied the effect of the chemical and three other blueberry compounds on rat liver cells.

Pterostilbene showed the most potent effect in stimulating a receptor protein in the cells which plays an important role in lowering cholesterol and other blood fats.

This is similar to the way the commercial cholesterol-lowering drug ciprofibrate works.

Ciprofibrate is effective but can cause muscle pain and nausea in some people.

But because the blueberry compound targets the liver cell receptor more accurately, Dr Rimando believes it is likely to have fewer side effects.

There were no signs of side effects in the study.

Similar antioxidants have already been identified in grapes and red wine.

We will be interested to see if similar results emerge from long-term studies involving people.
Belinda Linden,
British Heart Foundation

Other research suggests pterostilbene may help fight cancer and ward off diabetes.

Dr Rimando said: "We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease."

But she said until studies were conducted in humans, it would be impossible to know how many blueberries a person would need to eat to lower their cholesterol.

Belinda Linden from the British Heart Foundation said: "Research has suggested that natural chemicals found in fruit, including blueberries, have potent antioxidant properties which may reduce the harmful type of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL).

"This study claims that blueberries are particularly efficient at reducing cholesterol in a laboratory - we will be interested to see if similar results emerge from long-term studies involving people."

She said it was also important to remember that regular physical activity combined with a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat was still the best way to combat high cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.


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