By Michael A. Smith, MDblueberries not only boost brain function, but also increase life span across many species?
We already knew these “blue” packets of health were pretty amazing, but increasing longevity … now that’s a surprise.
Longevity enthusiasts will be excited about these findings. Rich in anthocyanins and stilbene compounds, blueberries are quickly becoming a critical component of a science-based longevity program.
Blueberries Increase Life SpanFruit flies are popular animal models in longevity research. Why? Because they cycle through generations relatively quickly, making it easy to measure changes in life span. What researchers discovered is that fruit flies live 10% longer when fed a regular diet containing blueberry extract.1
But the findings actually show something beyond just living longer: The fruit flies show improved levels of physical activity. This translates for us as an improvement in the quality of life. Let’s face it, active people feel good and people who feel good are active. It goes both ways.
After the positive results in fruit flies, researchers decided to test the effects of blueberries on other animal models, like C. elegans, a multicellular organism. This means that it goes through a complex developmental process, including embryogenesis, morphogenesis, and growth to an adult. Thus, biological information that we learn from C. elegans may be more applicable to more complex organisms, such as humans.
After administering blueberry extract to C. elegans, they lived an average of 28% longer and the maximum life span increased by 14%.2 In a second measurement of longevity, the researchers isolated an age-related protein in C. elegans. Lowering the amount of this protein is a surrogate marker of improved health. To their surprise, blueberries reduced the levels of this protein by 20%.2
The following table, published in the Life Extension Magazine®, summarizes the multiple longevity effects of blueberries. The data was collected from several different research teams:
Impact of Aging
Effect of Blueberry Supplementation
Slowed response to sounds
Restoration of youthful responses.3
Wrinkling, thinning, roughness, sagging
Improved overall appearance, restoration of skin thickness; reduction in wrinkling.4
Retinal cell death from light-induced damage
Improved cell survival and reduced damage from light.5
Increased bone loss
More active bone-reproducing cells.6
So what’s the bottom line? Eat and supplement your diet with blueberries if living a loner, healthier life sounds good to you. I know - longevity is not that simple. But blueberries taste great and are good for you anyway, so we stand behind that statement.
Now, make sure you only eat organic blueberries. This can be more expensive; however, organic blueberries are well worth the cost. But here’s an idea. How about growing your own?
How to Grow Your Own BlueberriesBlueberry plants are shrubs and grow anywhere from 4–6 feet tall. The plant itself requires full sun exposure with moist acidic soil — a pH of 4.8 is ideal. The easiest way to test your soil is to send in a sample to your state’s agriculture department. They will test it and send you the results for a nominal fee. You can try and test it yourself with a pH kit, but the results probably won’t be very accurate.
If your soil’s pH is too high (greater than 4.8, which means it’s not acidic enough), you can add coffee grounds, pine needles or ammonium sulfate to the soil and retest. However, it’s probably best to grow dwarf blueberry plants in a planter using ready-made soil with the correct pH.
When planting, blueberry shrubs need space. So plant them about 4–5 feet apart. Experts like to plant different varieties for the best yield of fruit. Put plants in 1' x 1' holes and cover the roots up to the natural soil line on the plant. You will need to mulch with bark or straw to keep the roots moist.
Do not harvest any berries the first year. Just remove all the flowers and let the shrub continue to grow. Harvesting the first year actually restricts future shrub growth. The berries will be ready to pick and eat probably when the shrub is three years old. After that, you can harvest yearly for around 5-7 years.
Now’s here the best blueberry recipe: Pick, wash and eat! If you have to, add them to your favorite sprouted cereal in the morning. They’re pretty tasty in Greek yogurt as well.
Tell us about your favorite blueberry recipe in the comments below!
- Exp Gerontol. 2012 Feb;47(2):170-8.
- Aging Cell. 2006 Feb;5(1):59-68.
- Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Jul;27(7):1035-44.
- J Cosmet Dermatol. 2009 Jun;8(2):147-51.
- Br J Nutr. 2011 Oct 12:1-12.
- PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24486.
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