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Life Extension Magazine February 2009


Blueberry-induced changes in spatial working memory correlate with changes in hippocampal CREB phosphorylation and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels.

Phytochemical-rich foods have been shown to be effective at reversing age-related deficits in memory in both animals and humans. We show that a supplementation with a blueberry diet (2% w/w) for 12 weeks improves the performance of aged animals in spatial working memory tasks. This improvement emerged within 3 weeks and persisted for the remainder of the testing period. Memory performance correlated well with the activation of cAMP-response element-binding protein (CREB) and increases in both pro- and mature levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. Changes in CREB and BDNF in aged and blueberry-supplemented animals were accompanied by increases in the phosphorylation state of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK1/2), rather than that of calcium calmodulin kinase (CaMKII and CaMKIV) or protein kinase A. Furthermore, age and blueberry supplementation were linked to changes in the activation state of Akt, mTOR, and the levels of Arc/Arg3.1 in the hippocampus, suggesting that pathways involved in de novo protein synthesis may be involved. Although causal relationships cannot be made among supplementation, behavior, and biochemical parameters, the measurement of anthocyanins and flavanols in the brain following blueberry supplementation may indicate that changes in spatial working memory in aged animals are linked to the effects of flavonoids on the ERK-CREB-BDNF pathway.

Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Aug 1;45(3):295-305

A blueberry-enriched diet provides cellular protection against oxidative stress and reduces a kainate-induced learning impairment in rats.

Young male Fischer-344 rats were fed a diet containing 2% blueberry (BB) extract or control diet for at least 8 weeks and then received bilateral hippocampal injections of kainic acid (KA 200 ng/0.5 microl) or phosphate buffered saline (PBS). One week later rats were trained in one-way active footshock avoidance in a straight runway followed the next day by training in a footshock motivated 14-unit T-maze with documented sensitivity to hippocampal glutamatergic manipulations. Based on analyses of several performance variables, KA-treated rats exhibited clearly impaired learning performance; however, the BB diet significantly reduced this impairment. Supporting the behavioral findings, stereological assessment of CA1 pyramidal neurons documented greater neuronal loss in KA-treated controls compared to KA-treated rats on the BB diet. In an in vitro experiment, FaO cells grown in medium supplemented with serum from BB-fed rats had enhanced viability after exposure to hydrogen peroxide. These findings suggest that BB supplementation may protect against neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment mediated by excitotoxicity and oxidative stress.

Neurobiol Aging. 2008 Nov;29(11):1680-9

Blueberry polyphenols attenuate kainic acid-induced decrements in cognition and alter inflammatory gene expression in rat hippocampus.

Cognitive impairment in age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease may be partly due to long-term exposure and increased susceptibility to inflammatory insults. In the current study, we investigated whether polyphenols in blueberries can reduce the deleterious effects of inflammation induced by central administration of kainic acid by altering the expression of genes associated with inflammation. To this end, 4-month-old male Fischer-344 (F344) rats were fed a control, 0.015% piroxicam (an NSAID) or 2% blueberry diet for 8 weeks before either Ringer’s buffer or kainic acid was bilaterally micro-infused into the hippocampus. Two weeks later, following behavioral evaluation, the rats were killed and total RNA from the hippocampus was extracted and used in real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) to analyze the expression of inflammation-related genes. Kainic acid had deleterious effects on cognitive behavior as kainic acid-injected rats on the control diet exhibited increased latencies to find a hidden platform in the Morris water maze compared to Ringer’s buffer-injected rats and utilized non-spatial strategies during probe trials. The blueberry diet, and to a lesser degree the piroxicam diet, was able to improve cognitive performance. Immunohistochemical analyses of OX-6 expression revealed that kainic acid produced an inflammatory response by increasing the OX-6 positive areas in the hippocampus of kainic acid-injected rats. Kainic acid up-regulated the expression of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta and TNF-alpha, the neurotrophic factor IGF-1, and the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Blueberry and piroxicam supplementations were found to attenuate the kainic acid-induced increase in the expression of IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, and NF-kappaB, while only blueberry was able to augment the increased IGF-1 expression. These results indicate that blueberry polyphenols attenuate learning impairments following neurotoxic insult and exert anti-inflammatory actions, perhaps via alteration of gene expression.

Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):172-82

Dopamine and Abeta-induced stress signaling and decrements in Ca2+ buffering in primary neonatal hippocampal cells are antagonized by blueberry extract.

We have shown previously that dietary blueberry (BB) extract supplementation (S) reversed several parameters of neuronal and behavioral (e.g., cognition) aging in rodents. Additionally, findings indicate that COS-7 cells transfected with muscarinic receptor subtypes (e.g., M1) showed decrements in Ca;{2+} clearance following depolarization (Ca;{2+} Recovery time, Ca;{2+}RT) that were antagonized by BB. Since it has been postulated that at least part of the loss of cognitive function in aging may be dependent upon a dysregulation in calcium homeostasis (i.e., Ca;{2+}RT), we assessed whether: a) Ca;{2+}RT would be altered in dopamine (DA)- or amyloid beta (Abeta)-exposed cultured primary hippocampal neuronal cells (HNC), and b) BB pre-treatment of the cells would prevent these deficits. Thus, control or BB (0.5 mg/ml)-treated HNC were exposed to DA (0.1 mM, 2 hrs), Abeta(40) (25 microM, 24 hrs), Abeta(42) (25 microM, 24 hrs), and Abeta(25-35) (25 microM, 24 hrs), and Ca;{2+}RT following KCl-induced depolarization assessed. Ca;{2+}RT was assessed as the % of HNC showing recovery to 50%-70% of control at 5, 10, or 15 min after depolarization. Results indicated that DA significantly lowered Ca;{2+}RT in the HNC at all time points examined after depolarization. However, BB treatment selectively prevented these declines in Ca;{2+}RT. In the case of Abeta, the greatest effects on Ca;{2+}RT were seen when the hippocampal cells were Abeta(42)-treated. These effects were antagonized by BB treatment. Abeta(40) produced fewer deficits on Ca;{2+}RT than those seen when the HNC were pre-treated with either A;{2+}(42) or A;{2+}(25-35), but BB was relatively ineffective in antagonizing the deficits in Ca;{2+}RT produced by A;{2+}(40) or A;{2+}(25-35). Additional analyses indicated that BBs may be exerting their protective effects in the hippocampal cells by altering levels of phosphorylated MAPK, PKCgamma, and phosphorylated CREB. Therefore it appears that at least part of the protective effect of BBs may involve alterations in stress signaling.

J Alzheimers Dis. 2007 Jul;11(4):433-46

Modulation of hippocampal plasticity and cognitive behavior by short-term blueberry supplementation in aged rats.

During aging, reductions in hippocampal neurogenesis are associated with memory decline indicating a causal relationship. Indeed, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a major activator of the extracellular receptor kinase pathway that is central in learning and memory processes, is also a key modulator of hippocampal neurogenesis. Previously, we showed that age-related declines in spatial memory tasks can be improved by antioxidant-rich diets containing blueberries. In this study, to begin to understand the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of blueberries, we assessed changes in hippocampal plasticity parameters such as hippocampal neurogenesis, extracellular receptor kinase activation, and IGF-1 and IGF-1R levels in blueberry-supplemented aged animals. Our results show that all these parameters of hippocampal neuronal plasticity are increased in supplemented animals and aspects such as proliferation, extracellular receptor kinase activation and IGF-1 and IGF-1R levels correlate with improvements in spatial memory. Therefore, cognitive improvements afforded by polyphenolic-rich fruits such as blueberries appear, in part, to be mediated by their effects on hippocampal plasticity.

Nutr Neurosci. 2004 Oct-Dec;7(5-6):309-16

Dietary supplementation with blueberry extract improves survival of transplanted dopamine neurons.

The exact mechanisms contributing to poor neuronal survival in cell transplantation paradigms for Parkinson’s disease (PD) are unknown. However, transplantation-induced host immune response, inflammation, and subsequent oxidative stress are likely contributors to cell death since dopamine (DA) neurons are exquisitely sensitive to oxidative damage. Multiple studies have attempted to improve cell survival by treating transplant material with antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds, whereas far fewer studies have attempted to modify the host environment to reduce these threats. Flavonoids, phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, have antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. For example, supplementation with dietary blueberry extract (BBE) prevents oxidative stress-associated impairment of striatal motor function during aging and restores lost motor function in aged rats. We hypothesized that dietary supplementation of rodent diets with BBE would improve the survival of embryonic DA neurons transplanted into the unilaterally DA-depleted striatum. Inclusion of 2% BBE in a custom chow diet significantly increased the survival of implanted DA neurons and ameliorated rotational behavior asymmetries as compared to transplanted animals consuming a standard diet. These findings provide support for the potential of dietary phytochemicals as an easily administered and well-tolerated therapy that can be used to improve the effectiveness of DA neuron replacement.

Nutr Neurosci. 2006 Oct-Dec;9(5-6):251-8

Fruit polyphenols and their effects on neuronal signaling and behavior in senescence.

The onset of age-related neurodegenerative diseases superimposed on a declining nervous system could exacerbate the motor and cognitive behavioral deficits that normally occur in senescence. It is likely that, in cases of severe deficits in memory or motor function, hospitalization and/or custodial care would be a likely outcome. This means that unless some way is found to reduce these age-related decrements in neuronal function, healthcare costs will continue to rise exponentially. Thus, it is extremely important to explore methods to retard or reverse the age-related neuronal deficits as well as their subsequent, behavioral manifestations. Applying molecular biological approaches to slow aging in the human condition may be years away. So it is important to determine what methods can be used today to increase healthy aging, forestall the onset of these diseases, and create conditions favorable to obtaining a “longevity dividend” in both financial and human terms. In this regard, epidemiological studies indicate that consumption of diets rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as those found in fruits and vegetables, may lower the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases (AD and PD). Research suggests that the polyphenolic compounds found in fruits, such as blueberries, may exert their beneficial effects by altering stress signaling and neuronal communication, suggesting that interventions may exert protection against age-related deficits in cognitive and motor function. The purpose of this article is to discuss the benefits of these interventions in rodent models and to describe the putative molecular mechanisms involved in their benefits.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Apr;1100:470-85

Effect of blueberry feeding on plasma lipids in pigs.

Two feeding trials were conducted with pigs to determine the effects of blueberry supplementation on plasma lipid levels and other indices of cardiovascular benefit. In the first trial, where basal diets contained a high level of plant-based components (70% soya, oats and barley), supplementation with 1, 2 and 4% blueberries resulted in a decrease in total, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol. The greatest reduction was observed in the 2% blueberry-fed pigs, where total, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol were reduced 11.7, 15.1 and 8.3%, respectively. In the second trial where basal diets contained only 20% (w/w) of soya, oats and barley, the lipid-modulating effect of blueberries was attenuated, so that supplementation with 1.5% blueberries reduced total cholesterol by 8%, which occurred only in pigs whose diets had been supplemented with cholesterol (0.08%), NaCl (0.11%) and fructose (9%). In the first feeding trial, blueberry supplementation had no effect on blood platelet activity. Blueberry supplementation also had no effect on the susceptibility of leucocyte DNA to oxidation in the first trial and no effect on the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation in the second trial. Results of these two feeding trials are discussed in relation to the effects of basal diet composition on lipid-modulating effects of blueberries.

Br J Nutr. 2008 Jul;100(1):70-8

Effect of Blueberin on fasting glucose, C-reactive protein and plasma aminotransferases, in female volunteers with diabetes type 2: double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study.

In a 4-week randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial we investigated the effect of 300 mg Blueberin, a phytomedicine containing 250 mg Blueberry leaves (Vaccinium arctostaphylos L, Ericaceae) extract providing minimum 50 mg 3,4-caffeoylquinic (chlorogenic) acid, and 50 mg myricetin, on fasting plasma glucose, alanine aminotransferases (ALT), aspartate aminotransferases (AST), glutamyltransferase (GGT) enzymes levels, and serum inflammatory C-Reactive proteins (CRP) in forty-two volunteer subjects (46+/-15 year of age, BMI 25+/-3 kgs/(m2)) diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. During the 4-week trial, the Blueberin supplement was administered three times per day, 15-30 minutes prior to a meal along with 100 ml of water. Results of this trial revealed that the supplementation of Blueberin reduced fasting plasma glucose from 143+/-5,2mg/L to 104+/-5,7 mg/L (p<0,001), whereas there was no statistically significant changes in the Placebo group from 138+/-4,8 mg/L to 126+/-5,1mg/L (p>0,05). The reduction of fasting glucose was correlated with the reduction of serum CRP and in the Blueberin group from 5,18+/-1,4 mg/l to 2,14+/-1,8 mg/L (p<0,05), whereas in the Placebo group CRP levels were not significantly reduced from 5,11+/-1,7 mg/l to 4,94+/-1,1mg/L (p>0,05). Furthermore, the Blueberin also significantly reduced the levels of plasma enzymes ALT, AST and GGT, indicating that, in addition to anti-diabetes effects, the Blueberin also possess pharmacologically relevant anti-inflammatory properties.

Georgian Med News. 2006 Dec;(141):66-72

Availability of blueberry phenolics for microbial metabolism in the colon and the potential inflammatory implications.

Blueberries are a rich source of phenylpropanoid-derived phytochemicals, widely studied for their potential health benefits. Of particular interest for colonic health are the lower molecular weight phenolic acids and their derivatives, as these are the predominant phenolic compounds detected in the colon. Blueberries contained a wide variety of phenolic acids, the majority of which (3371.14 +/- 422.30 mg/kg compared to 205.06 +/- 45.34 mg/kg for the free phenolic acids) were attached to other plant cell-wall components and therefore, likely to become available in the colon. Cytokine-induced stimulation of the inflammatory pathways in colon cells was four-fold up-regulated in the presence of the free phenolic acid fraction. Incubation of the bound phenolic acids with human faecal slurries resulted in qualitative and quantitative differences in the phenolic compounds recovered. The metabolites obtained by incubation with faecal slurries from one volunteer significantly decreased (1.67 +/- 0.69 ng/cm(3)) prostanoid production, whereas an increase (10.78 +/- 5.54 ng/cm(3)) was obtained with faecal slurries from another volunteer. These results suggest that any potential protective effect of blueberry phenolics as anti-inflammatory agents in the colon is a likely result of microbial metabolism. Studies addressing a wide-range of well-characterised human volunteers will be required before such health claims can be fully established.

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):726-31

Probiotics and blueberry attenuate the severity of dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis.

We studied the anti-inflammatory properties of probiotic strains and blueberry in a colitis model. The disease activity index (DAI) was significantly lower on days 9 and 10 in all groups compared to the colitis control. Myeloperoxidase (MPO) and bacterial translocation to the liver and to the mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) decreased significantly in all groups compared to colitis control. Cecal Enterobacteriaceae count decreased significantly in blueberry with and without probiotics compared to the other groups. Lactobacillus plantarum reisolated from the cecal content in the presence of blueberry, contrary to Lactobacillus fermentum. Colonic MDA decreased significantly in all groups, except the L. fermentum group, compared to the colitis control. The cecal concentration of acetic, propionic, and butyricbutyric acid was significantly higher in the L. plantarum group, while the L. fermentum group yielded the highest concentration of lactic acid compared with all other groups. Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313, Lactobacillus fermentum 35D, and blueberry alone and in combination improve the DAI, reduce bacterial translocation, and reduce inflammation.

Dig Dis Sci. 2008 Sep;53(9):2464-73

Blueberry prevents bone loss in ovariectomized rat model of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

The objective of the present study was to explore the bone protective role of blueberry in an ovariectomized rat model. Thirty 6-month-old female Sprague-Dawley rats were either sham-operated (Sham) or ovariectomized (Ovx) and divided into three groups: Sham, Ovx (control), Ovx+blueberry (5% blueberry w/w). After 100 days of treatment, rats were euthanized, and blood and tissues were collected. Bone mineral density (BMD) and content of whole body, right tibia, right femur and fourth lumbar vertebra were assessed via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. As expected, Ovx resulted in loss of whole-body, tibial, femoral, and 4th lumbar BMD by approximately 6%. Blueberry treatment was able to prevent the loss of whole-body BMD and had an intermediary effect on prevention of tibial and femoral BMD when compared to either Sham or Ovx controls. The bone-protective effects of blueberry may be due to suppression of Ovx-induced increase in bone turnover, as evident by lowered femoral mRNA levels of alkaline phosphatase, collagen type I and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase to the Sham levels. Similarly, serum osteocalcein levels were also lower in the blueberry group when compared to the Ovx control group, albeit not significantly. In summary, our findings indicate that blueberry can prevent bone loss as seen by the increases in BMD and favorable changes in biomarkers of bone metabolism.

J Nutr Biochem. 2008 Oct;19(10):694-9