Bilberry (2012) & Atherosclerosis


Learn more about heart disease.

These researchers report that eating foods rich in the antioxidants known as anthocyanins are linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Anthocyanins are the blue-purple fruits such as bilberry, blueberry and blackberry. In a previous study they found that a bilberry extract slows or stops development of lesions in mice with atherosclerosis. The reason for this improvement was not completely understood. Although it is known that the anthocyanins may alter RNA levels in genes in lab testing, studies involving live beings is limited.

Therefore, the researchers wanted to explore, in vivo (living subjects rather than test tube) why bilberry extract has such a positive effect in atherosclerosis. The study looks at what happens in the mechanics of early atherosclerosis. Atherosclerotic mice were given bilberry extract for two weeks. Testing revealed that cholesterol levels significantly dropped although the levels of antioxidants in blood plasma were unchanged.

Gene evaluation followed and the expression of 1261 genes was found to have been changed in the aorta. The scientists evaluated the function of those gene expressions and found that they played imported roles in causing oxidative stress, inflammation, transendothelial migration and angiogenesis. (Ed. note: angiogenesis is the formation of extra blood vessels - an important factor in advanced macular degeneration). The negative effects of gene expression involved in oxidative stress and 'sticky' molecules were reduced. Other genes' actions were increased, likewise providing overall positive benefit.

The study helps scientists understand why anthocyanin-rich extracts like bilberry are effective in preventing atherosclerosis.

Researchers: A. Mauray, A. Felgines, et al
Published: Bilberry anthocyanin-rich extract alters expression of genes related to atherosclerosis development in aorta of apo E-deficient mice, Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, January, 2012