New research finds that blueberries protect against cancer and heart disease.
In our recent book, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health, Dr. W. Jean Dodds and I discuss at length the health benefits of berries, and most specifically, of blueberries, for our canine companions. Now, recent research in people has found new evidence to support the benefits of blueberries as a powerful superfood to fight against two common, and serious, health conditions – cancer and cardiovascular disease.
New Study Findings Support the Benefits of Blueberries
A 2014 study out of North Carolina and published in the journal Nutrition Research found that sedentary men and women who consumed 38 grams of blueberry powder daily (the equivalent of 250 grams of fresh fruit) for six weeks showed a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (that’s the bottom number) than those who were given a placebo.
The same study showed that the people who consumed the blueberry powder had a significant increase in natural killer (NK) cells. This is extremely important, because NK cells are lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) that are able to kill tumor cells and that also play a critical role in the control of tumor growth and metastasis and that protect against infection with certain viruses.
The North Carolina study found that blueberries protect the heart and protect against cancer.
The North Carolina Study Supports Previous Research
The recent results of the North Carolina study continue to confirm the amazing health benefits of blueberries. The same researchers had also previously found that healthy marathon runners who consumed 250 grams of blueberries daily for six weeks doubled their NK cell counts. And, in Canine Nutrigenomics, Dr. Dodds and I cited previous animal studies concluding that blueberries contain powerful anti-tumor and anti-metastasis activity and that they alter the expression of genes involved in inflammation and cancer.
Why Blueberries for Dogs?
At first glance, it might not seem like cancer and cardiovascular disease have much in common, but the authors of the North Carolina study point out that oxidative stress is a common link among diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and aging. Oxidative stress is defined as: “physiological stress on the body that is caused by the cumulative damage done by free radicals inadequately neutralized by antioxidants and that is held to be associated with aging.” Anthocyanin, the pigment that is responsible for giving blueberries their beautiful deep color, are widely recognized as powerful antioxidant compounds that fight free radical damage and combat oxidative stress.
In addition to anthocyanin, blueberries contain pterostilbene, a derivative of resveratrol (found in grapes, which dogs cannot eat). Pterostilbene is a powerful dog-approved source of antioxidants with potent cancer-fighting properties.
The potent antioxidant ability of blueberries may be responsible, at least in part, for their amazing health benefits.
Indulge Your Pet
I like to give blueberries to my dog, Chase, all year round, so I tend to buy them in bulk in the freezer section. This way, I always have some on hand and they don’t quickly mold or spoil, as do fresh blueberries. I also find that I can purchase organic frozen blueberries more cost-effectively than organic fresh.
So, the next time your dog gives you that wide-eyed begging-for-food look, why not toss him a few blueberries? He’ll love them – even if they are good for him!Do you have something to add to this story? Voice your thoughts in the comments below!
-  McAnulty, LS, Collierb, SR, Landramb, MJ, Stanton Whittakerc, D, Isaacsa, SE, Klemkaa, JM, Cheeka, SL, Armsb, JC, McAnulty, SR, ‘Six weeks daily ingestion of whole blueberry powder increases natural killer cell counts and reduces arterial stiffness in sedentary males and females’, Nutrition Research, vol. 34, no. 7, pp. 577–584. ↩
-  Wu, J and Lanier, LL 2003, ‘Natural killer cells and cancer’, Adv Cancer Res, vol. 90, pp. 127-56, Review, PubMed PMID: 14710949. ↩
-  Merriam-Webster 2015, Oxidative Stress, Retrieved 15 March 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/oxidative%20stress. ↩