Blueberry Extract–Superfruit Essence With Anticancer Properties

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Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created blueberries—anti-cancer plant medicine at its finest.

Blueberries make the top-ten list of most-consumed fruits in the United States. The small blue berries feature a long list of nutrition and health benefits, such as high contents of Vitamin K and manganese, and a good source of Vitamin C and copper. Then, there are those constituents that are hard to pronounce but appear to give the fruit even more healing power.
The journal Food & Nutrition Research features a publication that introduces water-soluble pigments called anthocyanidins as components that, “possess antioxidative and antimicrobial activities, improve visual and neurological health, and protect against various non-communicable diseases,” such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.
Tannins, in particular proanthocyanidins and ellagitannins, are bioactive compounds responsible for certain health benefits. Their antioxidant capacity makes them powerhouses for preventing inflammation, cardiovascular problems, and even fighting the risk of cancer, confirms another article in the International Journal of Molecular Science.
Tannins are also part of a group called phenolic compounds. These are phytochemicals with small molecules that have at least one phenol unit. Other familiar subgroups are curcuminoids or coumarins with anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties of their own.

‘Anti-Cancer Fruit’ Par Excellence

A 2013 review published in Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry dubbed blueberries as the anti-cancer fruit par excellence. Researchers focused their studies on a wide spectrum of research that included clinical trials, testing in live specimens (in vivo), and in test tubes (in vitro). All results aligned and showed the promising effects of “blueberries and their active constituents […] as effective anti-cancer agents, both in the form of functional foods and as nutritional supplements.”

Findings of the study suggest that blueberries inhibit the formation of cancer cells by hindering normal cell mutation into cancerous ones. This is accomplished by preventing the creation of pro-inflammatory molecules, as well as reducing oxidative stress and its effects, which can lead to increased cell death and DNA damage.

Novel Cancer Therapy

Nearly 40 percent of individuals will suffer from cancer during their lifetime. Finding new treatments and methods to help patients remain in remission was the goal of a group of scientists who published their findings in the journal Pathology Oncology Research.

They titled their work “Beyond Conventional Medicine—a Look at Blueberry, a Cancer-Fighting Superfruit”—a promising outlook for many of us who strive to improve our health through nutrition and lifestyle changes.

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The National Foundation for Cancer Research has dedicated an entire webpage to the topic and suggests that people consume plenty of the antioxidant-rich, promising superfruit.
A 2019 paper published in Pathology Oncology Research highlights the use of blueberry extract specifically linked to cervical cancer. The test group that received the “superfruit essence” while receiving radiation therapy had extremely good results, indicating that “blueberry might be used as a potential radiosensitizer to treat CC [cervical cancer],” declared the authors of the study.
Additional research focused on blueberry extract in relation to breast cancer treatment. The article suggests that phytochemicals in blueberry extract possess active compounds preventing the manifestation of cancer, especially in “triple negative breast cancer cell lines.” Triple-negative because these cancer cells are missing estrogen and progesterone receptors, as well as most or all of the protein HER2,” according to the American Cancer Society.

This research was not only successful in the mice study—the experiment also affirmed this approach as a valuable strategy for preventing breast cancer in humans. Eating blueberries lowered the growth of tumors and decreased certain markers (AKT and NFκB) which are measured for metastatic potential.

What is the correct dosage? How does one accomplish a condensed intake of blueberries?

Can I Eat Enough Blueberries?

The same researchers looked at the amount of blueberries the mice had been fed in the study, and translated that into human-size numbers. They arrived at the following dosage:

“2.03 g/kg human or 122 grams (4.3 oz) of fresh blueberries/day for a 60 kg [132 pound] person.”

The study recommends one 6-ounce serving of fresh blueberries per day to receive a super-health boost. The team of researchers points out that enjoying America’s favorite berries “could be an important part of dietary cancer prevention strategies.”

Blueberry Extract–Densely Packed ‘Superjuice’

By now, we have established that blueberries are indeed not only one of the tastiest and most popular fruits but also a powerhouse for our health.

Sometimes we can be caught in a pickle though—there are so many healthy fruits and vegetables, how can we eat all of them in a manageable amount and still enjoy them?

Think about it, eating a handful of blueberries (or two, or three) is wonderful and even manageable, but those on top of all of the other super fruits and vegetable powerhouses on a daily basis might not be as delicious of an idea for many of us.

How about packing all of blueberries’ medicinal qualities into a concentrate that would be yummy, simple to take, and loaded with beneficial constituents?

A 2020 study published in Experimental Oncology tested exactly that, a blueberry extract produced by using the alcohol-extraction method. The results are very promising and provide further proof that blueberry extract can “inhibit the growth and decrease cell adhesion and migration of different cancer cell lines.”
Not only quantity counts though …

Varieties Matter

A comparative study outlines the variance in phytochemical profiles that different varieties of blueberries exhibit. For instance, the overall anti-oxidant quality in the fruit varieties changed by 2.6 times, and the cellular anti-oxidant activity even by 3.9 times.

The good news on the extract of the superfruit is that “Blueberry extracts had potent antiproliferative activities against HepG2 human liver cancer cells, indicating the potential protective benefits associated with their use as functional foods.”

Growing Your Own

The University of New Hampshire published a fact sheet on how to grow highbush blueberries, and the Illinois Extension has a helpful article: “What to Know Before You Grow.” Your local university extension office should have proper information for your specific area.

According to a publication in Food Chemistry, the top four varieties with the highest content of free phenolic compounds are:

  • North country (wild blueberry, half-high plant).
  • Chippewa (compact blueberry bush, a hybrid cross between V. corymbosum and V. angustifolium).
  • Blomidon (wild blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium).
  • Northland (stands 4-7 feet tall when mature).

However, check the pH level of your soil before attempting to grow blueberries in your garden. Blueberries need acidic soil and prefer a pH level of 4.8 to 5.2.

You Are What You Eat—The Question of Quality

The motto “You Are What You Eat” points to an important factor often disregarded—the quality of the food we buy. Every time we ingest solids or liquids, we make a choice—especially when eating food with the purpose of improving our health.

For blueberries, this means to be extra-cautious, as they secured themselves a ranking on the 2023 “Dirty Dozen” list of the Environmental Working Group. “Government tests found 54 different pesticides on blueberries,” and that is not all.
Unfortunately, research revealed that 9 percent of all tested blueberries were contaminated with malathion, a chemical of the group organophosphates, which is toxic to insects and mammals. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the poison that harms the human nervous system as “probably carcinogenic.”
Phosmet is another chemical toxin that was found on 10 percent of tested blueberries. The National Library of Health characterizes it as follows, “Cancer Classification: Suggestive Evidence of Carcinogenicity.”
According to the EWG, some of the tested blueberries showed “traces of up to 17 different pesticides,” and it would not make sense to try to fight cancer with fruits treated with chemicals that cause cancer, would it?

Proper Storage of Blueberries and a Recipe for Extract

Of course, the fresher the fruit the better. Maybe you find a local grower where you can take advantage of the “Pick-your-own” option farmers increasingly offer.

The Extension of the University of Illinois has extra tips:

  • Keep picked berries out of direct sunlight.
  • Refrigerate in a moisture-proof container.
  • Blueberries will keep well for up to 10 days after picking.
  • Wash in cold water before eating or cooking.

Blueberry syrup, juice, puree, and canned fruit all performed differently when researchers tested their preservability and the long-term effects of storage.

A study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, highlights these effects. Researchers tested the ability of canned blueberries to be kept for a 13-month period and found that the values for “total anthocyanins, total phenolics, and total antioxidant activity,” dropped by “up to 86, 69 and 52% respectively.” Canned blueberry syrup did not perform much better. The decrease was 68 percent and 15 percent respectively in total anthocyanins and total antioxidant activity.

A safe way to preserve summer’s blueberry bounty and anti-cancer properties at least until the next season rolls around is to make homemade blueberry extract.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Homemade Wild Blueberry Extract

  • Use fresh or frozen berries to make the extract.
  • Wash fresh berries before processing.
  • At a ratio of 1:2 of fruit to 30-35 percent alcohol, add the fruit and alcohol to a jar, crushing the fruit with a spoon. (You can also utilize the Barefoot doctor method and use vodka with a 40 percent alcohol content.)
  • Close jar and shake the mixture daily for 4–6 weeks.
  • To finish the extract, strain the remaining fruit pieces (mostly skin) out of the concoction.
  • Fill in amber-colored glass bottles and store in a cool and dark place.

– Enjoy!

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