This time of year, I like to thaw out my stash of superfoods.
That's because I load up on blueberries each spring and summer. So much so, that I freeze the leftovers to help tide me over until the next time they're in season.
I call blueberries the "perfect blue food." I've said since medical school that many of the worst diseases – like dementia, heart disease, and diabetes – stem from infection and inflammation. Blueberries help fight inflammation and keep you healthy.
Blueberries get their power from anthocyanins. These molecules are a type of antioxidant. They're responsible for the health benefits the blues bring because they fight "free radicals."
Every day, there's a battle inside your body between your army of healthy cells and damaging molecules called "free radicals." These radicals bounce around your system, trying to pull electrons off healthy pieces of your cells. Too many free radicals can lead to massive damage. They alter your proteins, fats, and even DNA. They can cause inflammation and cancer.
We get free radicals as a by-product of our everyday lives. But antioxidants – particularly powerful ones like in blueberries – fight these damaging molecules.
I've long joked about prescribing a pint of blueberries for my patients. And now we have even more reason to eat our blues...
A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia shows how blueberries help fight cancer.
The team of researchers isolated cervical cancer cells for their study. Cervical cancer is one of the top cancer killers in women, with about 13,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
A popular type of treatment for cervical cancer (and many other cancers) is radiation therapy. The danger with radiation is that it also affects healthy cells, doing damage as it kills the cancer cells.
The researchers tested blueberry extract to see if it would make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation therapy and if it would preserve healthy cells.
They treated groups of cervical cancer cells in a lab. One group got radiation therapy, one got blueberry extract, and one got a combination of the two. They also had a separate control group that received no treatment of any kind.
The radiation group showed a 20% reduction in cancer cells. The blueberry group had a 25% decrease. But the combination group saw astaggering 70% decrease.
It's important to note that this is an early study, done on cells outside of the human body. But we're excited at the prospect of future trials. Imagine that something as simple as adding blueberries to your cancer treatment could improve your results.
We already know blueberries...
- Slow aging
- Improve dementia symptoms
- Fight urinary-tract infections
- Improve digestion
- Improve eyesight
So do what I do and enjoy fresh or frozen blueberries year-round. I put a handful on my cereal or mix them in with my yogurt. If you didn't freeze your own, try some of the prepackaged frozen varieties.
Multiple studies have shown that frozen blueberries actually have higher antioxidant levels than fresh. The freezing process forms crystals in the berries that make the antioxidants easier to break down when we consume them... This is "bioavailability."
I put blueberries on everything... chocolate ice cream, yogurt, and I even crush them into waffle batter. Frozen blueberries also make great additions to smoothies.
- Did you see our issue on blueberry prices?
- More on the cancer study here.
- Something different: How cold is too cold?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 18, 2018