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"American Indians, living in areas where blueberries grew wild, would dry them for eating in the winter and for treating upset stomach problems. More recently blueberries have been found to reduce the insulin requirements of diabetics and to help control urinary tract infections. Recent studies indicate that blueberries might be as good as commercially manufactured drugs to reduce bad cholesterol.

The bilberry, a European relative of the American cultivated blueberry, has improved night vision and has retarded ocular degeneration.

The most exciting find in the few years I have been associated with blueberries came from the US Department of Agriculture in 1997. Blueberries were found to have the highest level of antioxidant activity of any fruit or vegetable tested. Antioxidants combat the free radicals in the body. These free radicals come from smoking, air pollution, and the products of normal use of oxygen during respiration. Excess free radicals in the body are thought to cause cancer and most of the disorders associated with ageing.

Following is a partial list of changes and disorders of ageing that are brought about by damage from free radicals:

  • Conversion of desirable HDL cholesterol to the undesirable LDL cholesterol that causes heart and artery problems.
  • Collagen damage causing skin wrinkles, varicose veins and arthritis.
  • Oxidative damage to DNA genetic material causing cancer.

The US Department of Agriculture studies went on to see if blueberries would cause a recovery from damage from free radicals of oxygen. Blueberries were found to be very effective. The antioxidant activity in blueberries is not reduced by freezing, the US Dept. of Agriculture concluded. Eating 1/2 cup of blueberries daily will provide a large part of the antioxidant activity required to maintain health and delay ageing.

Who would have ever thought this delicious little blue fruit would have so much health benefit.

Article by Professor Mike Mainland in the New Jersey Bulletin, based on papers he gave in Tokyo and Osaka on March 24 and 27 1998.