Blueberries: How They Help To Kill Cancer Cells.

Blueberries are sometimes branded a “superfood,” and for good reason; they are packed full of antioxidants that offer a wealth of health benefits. Now, a new study has uncovered another use for these little berries: helping to treat cancer.

blueberries

Blueberry extract could help in the fight against cancer, say, researchers.

By studying human cervical cancer cell lines, a team of researchers discovered that adding blueberry extract to radiation therapy can significantly improve treatment efficacy.

Lead study author Dr. Yujiang Fang, who works in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues recently reported their results in Pathology and Oncology Research.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), around 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 4,200 women are expected to die from the disease.

Radiation therapy remains a primary treatment for cervical cancer. It involves using high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells.

“For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option,” says Dr. Fang. “However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs.”

For their study, the researchers set out to determine whether or not blueberry extract could be used as a radiosensitizer, which is a compound that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy.

Blueberry extract ‘tricks’ cancer cells

In previous research, Dr. Fang and colleagues revealed that resveratrol — a compound present in grapes and red wine — helped to sensitize prostate cancer cells to radiation therapy.

The researchers note that blueberries also contain resveratrol, as well as flavonoids. “Flavonoids,” notes Dr. Fang, “are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.”

The team tested blueberry extract on human cancer cell lines for their latest study. The extract was tested both alone and in combination with radiation therapy. These effects were compared with those of radiation therapy alone.

While radiation therapy alone reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent, the blueberry extract alone led to a 25 percent reduction in cancer cells.

However, when the blueberry extract and radiation therapy were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent.

The researchers explain that the blueberry extract does not only make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, but it also reduces the abnormal cell growth that fuels cancer development.

“Cancer cells avoid death by remodeling themselves,” continues Dr. Fang. “Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.”

While further studies are needed, the researchers say that their findings indicate that blueberries may be a promising treatment strategy for cervical cancer and other cancer types.

Blueberries are very common and found all over the world. They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted.”

Dr. Yujiang Fang

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How to Lower High Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the most common fat in the body. Most of the foods that people eat, whether from animal or plant sources, can have an impact on the levels of triglycerides in the blood.

There are many different types of fats, from polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil to the saturated fats found in red meat. They all contribute to triglyceride levels in the body, but they do so in different ways.

When a person eats more calories than their body needs, the body stores these extra calories in the form of triglyceride fats. Then later, when the body needs more energy, it consumes these fats instead of needing more calories.

Triglycerides are important for health, but high levels of triglycerides in the body can lead to conditions such as heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Taking steps to lower triglyceride levels and reduce other risk factors can decrease a person’s chances of developing heart disease.

It is important to understand triglyceride levels in order to adjust them. The normal range for triglyceride levels is considered to be less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.

At-risk levels are anywhere from 150-199 milligrams per deciliter, and high triglyceride levels range from 200-499 milligrams per deciliter. Anything above 500 milligrams per deciliter is considered very high.

Ways to lower triglyceride levels

List of triglycerides levels.
High triglyceride levels range from 200 milligrams per deciliter and above.

There are many ways to reduce triglyceride levels safely. These can depend on the reasons why triglyceride levels are high in the first place.

If an individual regularly consumes more calories than the body can burn, it will result in an excess of triglycerides in the body. One way to lower triglyceride levels in the blood is to reduce the overall number of calories ingested every day.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there is evidence that a 5-10 percent weight loss can decrease triglyceride levels by 20 percent. The decrease in triglycerides is directly related to losing weight.

What to eat

In order to lower triglyceride levels, an individual must watch what they eat and adopt a nutrient-rich diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is a great way to increase the nutrients consumed, while also reducing calories.

A diet that is good for the heart and the blood also includes reducing the amount of sodium, refined grains, added sugars, and what are known as solid fats in the diet.

Fats

Solid fats come from meat, full-fat dairy products, and some tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil. These foods contain trans fats and saturated fats.

Trans fats and saturated fats raise triglyceride levels, so people should try to replace them wherever possible. Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), actually lower triglyceride levels.

Omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil, cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines, and flaxseeds are great ways to add PUFAs to a diet. For example, instead of a steak or hamburger, which are high in saturated fats, people can opt for a filet of salmon or a tuna sandwich.

Animal products, such as lean meats, skinned poultry, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and seafood are also good options.

Carbohydrates

Individuals should limit their total carbohydrate intake to below 60 percent of their recommended daily calorie allowance. Diets with a carbohydrate intake above 60 percent are associated with a rise in triglyceride levels.

Ways to avoid carbohydrates include, for example, choosing lean burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of a high-carb bun. For dessert, opting for fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries instead of sugary baked goods can reduce sugar cravings while also lowering overall carb intake.

Sugars

The types of carbohydrates in the diet can also contribute to triglyceride levels. Foods high in simple sugars, especially refined fructose, are known to raise triglyceride levels.

A glass full of sugar cubes and a straw.
Added sugars may lead to high triglyceride levels.

Drinks make a large contribution to overall carbohydrate intake. Fruit drinks, soft drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages are some of the main sources of added sugars in the diet. Added sugars should be avoided to help reduce triglyceride levels.

Added sugar comes in many forms, including:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Cane juice or cane syrup
  • Corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Syrups, such as maple, agave, and molasses

Taking steps to avoid drinks containing added sugars can greatly reduce overall calories. Every 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The recommended daily maximum sugar intake for women is 24 grams (6 teaspoons) or 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men.

Instead of drinks that contain high levels of added sugars, people can opt for low-calorie drinks, such as water or tea. On a warm day, instead of reaching for a soft drink, a splash of 100 percent fruit juice to a glass of sparkling water is a better option.

Alcohol also has a direct effect on triglyceride levels in some people. In people with high triglyceride levels, refraining from drinking alcohol is a helpful step to reducing triglycerides.

People should work directly with their healthcare provider to gradually make any changes to the diet, and be certain there are no complications with any medicines they are taking.

Exercise

Physical activity also plays an important role in reducing triglyceride levels. Burning calories ensures that more triglycerides from within the body are being used up.

Any exercise is beneficial, but the effects of exercise will vary based on initial triglyceride levels, the amount of exercise, and the level of intensity of the exercise. A 30-minute walk each day is a great way to begin, as is engaging in low-stress activities, such as cycling or swimming.

The AHA recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, 5 days a week.

Why are triglyceride levels important?

If the triglyceride levels in the body are too high, the risk of certain diseases and disorders is also increased. According to a study posted to the Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology, high triglyceride levels play a role in cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis.

This can happen because high triglyceride levels in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is a combination of cholesterol, triglyceride fats, calcium, cellular waste, and fibrin, which is the material the body uses for clotting.

Plaque buildup increases the risk of heart diseases, as the buildup blocks the normal flow of blood in the arteries. Plaque may also break off, and the sudden clot formed can cause a stroke or heart attack. Triglycerides and cholesterol levels make up two of the most important things to monitor for a healthy heart.

There is also an increased risk of damage to the pancreas if the levels of triglycerides get too high.

Causes of high triglyceride levels

The most common causes of high triglyceride levels relate to diet and metabolism. A study posted to Nutrients listed the most common contributing factors of high triglyceride levels. These include:

  • Family genes
  • Obesity
  • High-calorie diet
  • High-fat diet
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes (mainly type 2)
  • Renal diseases such as uremia
  • Pregnancy
  • Some medications, such as oral estrogen, corticosteroids, antiretroviral drugs, and tamoxifen, among others

Statistically, some groups of people are more at risk for high triglyceride levels than others. These groups include:

  • People who have developed heart disease before the age of 50
  • Women, especially pregnant women or women taking estrogen
  • People who are obese
  • Mexican-American men
  • Native Americans

Blueberries: Health Benefits, Facts, Research

Fresh blueberries are one of the most popular summer treats of all time. They are sweet, succulent, full of nutrients, and can be eaten freshly picked as well as incorporated into a variety of recipes.

Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid known as anthocyanins, which are responsible for giving foods like blueberries, cranberries, red cabbage and eggplants their iconic deep red, purple and blue hues. Anthocyanins are responsible for more than just the blueberry’s pretty blue color – they also contribute to the popular fruit’s numerous health benefits.

Possible health benefits of blueberries

blueberries
Anthocyanins that are responsible for the blueberry’s color, contributes to the numerous health benefits of consuming the fruit.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Although more research is needed before any of these health links can be said to be conclusive, blueberries have been associated with the following health benefits:

1) Maintaining healthy bones

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K in blueberries all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.

Iron and zinc play crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints. Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture, while adequate vitamin K intakes improve calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss.

2) Lowering blood pressure

Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure. Blueberries are naturally free of sodium and contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

3) Managing diabetes

Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One cup of blueberries contributes 3.6 grams of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men.

A large cohort study published in the BMJ in 2013 suggested that certain fruits – but not juices – may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. Over the course of the study, 6.5% of the participants developed diabetes, but the researchers found that consuming three servings per week of blueberries, grapes, raisins, apples or pears reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%.

4) Warding off heart disease

The blueberry’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. The fiber in blueberries helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin B6 and folate prevent the buildup of a compound known as homocysteine. When excessive amounts of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage blood vessels and lead to heart problems.

According to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia, regular consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women. The study, which was led by nutrition professor Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., MSc, BSc, found that women who consumed at least three servings of blueberries or strawberries showed the best results.

5) Preventing cancer

Vitamin C, vitamin A, and various phytonutrients in blueberries function as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage. They inhibit tumor growth, decrease inflammation in the body and help ward off or slow several types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate and colon.

Blueberries also contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.

6) Improving mental health

Population-based studies have shown that consumption of blueberries can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as well as Parkinson’s disease – a neurodegenerative disorder resulting from cell death in parts of the brain.

Studies have also revealed that in addition to reducing the risk of cognitive damage, blueberries can also improve short-term memory loss and motor coordination.4

7) Healthy digestion

Because of their fiber content, blueberries help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

8) Weight loss and satiety

Dietary fiber is commonly recognized as an important factor in weight loss and weight management by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system. High fiber foods increase satiety and reduce appetite, making you feel fuller for longer and thereby lowering your overall calorie intake.

9) Fighting wrinkles

Collagen, the skin’s support system, relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture. Just one cup of blueberries provides 24% of your daily need for vitamin C.

Nutritional breakdown of blueberries

One cup of fresh blueberries contains 84 calories, 0 grams of cholesterol, 1.1 grams of protein, 0.49 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrate and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber (14% of daily requirements).

That same one-cup serving provides 24% of daily vitamin C, 5% vitamin of B6 and 36% of vitamin K needs. Blueberries also provide iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, folate, beta-carotene, folate, choline, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

In addition to anthocyanins, blueberries contain a diverse range of phenolic compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin and chlorogenic acid – all of which contribute to their antioxidant capacity.

Due to these large amounts of bioactive compounds, blueberries rank very highly on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), which rates foods based on their vitamin and mineral content, phytochemical composition and antioxidant capacity. Foods that have the most nutrients per calorie have the highest rankings, and blueberries score among the top 20 fruits and vegetables.

How to incorporate more blueberries into your diet

Blueberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze dried and in jellies, syrups and jams. Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried blueberries for added sugars. When looking for jellies or jams, go for all fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.

blueberry smoothie
Blueberries can be added to low-fat milk and yogurt for a tasty and healthy smoothie.

Quick tips:

  • Use blueberries as fresh toppings on oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, yogurt or cereal for an extra burst of flavor in your breakfast
  • Whip up a quick and easy smoothie using frozen berries, low-fat milk, and yogurt
  • Mix fresh or dried blueberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and feta cheese
  • Fold them into muffins and sweet bread or blend them in a food processor with a little water and use as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods.

Or try these healthy and simple recipes:

Blueberry almond bread
Blueberry pumpkin oat muffins
Blueberry chia smoothie
Wild blueberry turkey burgers
Kale salad with creamy blueberry vinaigrette

Potential health risks of consuming blueberries

If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or fewer foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.