April 19, 2009 -- Busting belly fat may be yet another of blueberries’
A new study shows rats who ate a diet
rich in blueberries lost abdominal fat -- the kind of fat linked to heart disease and diabetes -- as well as experienced other health benefits
like lowered cholesterol and improved glucose
control even if their diet wasn’t otherwise heart-healthy.
"Some measurements were changed by blueberry even if the rats were on a
high-fat diet," researcher E. Mitchell Seymour, MS, of the University of
Michigan’s Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, says in a news release.
Researchers say the results suggest that antioxidant-rich blueberries may
change how the body stores and processes glucose or sugar for energy, thereby
reducing the risk of both heart disease and diabetes.
"The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables have been
well researched, but our findings in regard to blueberries show the naturally
occurring chemicals they contain, such as anthocyanins, show promise in
mitigating these health conditions," researcher Steven Bolling, MD, of the
University of Michigan, says in the release.
In the study, presented at Experimental Biology 2009, researchers fed rats
bred to become obese either a high-fat or low-fat diet enriched with whole
blueberry powder or carbohydrates as 2% of their total diet.
After 90 days, the rats fed blueberries had less abdominal fat, lower cholesterol, and improved
glucose control and insulin sensitivity. The latter
two factors are markers of how well the body processes sugar for energy and are
related to diabetes risk.
These health benefits of blueberries were evident in rats fed both high- and
low-fat diets enriched with the blueberry powder. But the benefits were
greatest among those who ate a low-fat diet.
In addition to the other heart health benefits of
blueberries, those fed the low-fat blueberry diet also lost body weight and fat mass
compared to those on the high-fat diet.
Although more research is needed to confirm these results in humans, a
related study presented at the same conference showed that men with risk
factors for heart disease who drank wild blueberry juice for three weeks seemed
to experience slight improvements in glucose and insulin control.