Vaccinium corymbosum is the scientific name for the northern highbush blueberry, a species of blueberry native to eastern North America. These beautiful shrubs of berries can be found growing from the Great Lakes region east to Nova Scotia and south through the Appalachians down to Mississippi.
Native Americans were fond of the berries and consumed them as part of their healthy raw lifestyle. Today, many Americans understand the antioxidant powers of this superfood berry but want to know more about what the berry protects cells from.
How do the blueberries protect the cells?
Romanian chemists from the University of Bucharest were so intrigued with the blueberry’s cellular protective abilities that they put blueberry extracts and their constituents to the test against heavy metal-contaminated cells.
Here’s what they found when they applied various blueberry extracts and pure cyanidin to yeast cells contaminated with hydrogen peroxide and cadmium.
Blueberries have protective effects on cells overloaded with toxic cadmium
Already understanding the berries’ superfood antioxidant powers, the researchers wanted to go a step further and investigate how the berries work inside cells in the fight against metals like cadmium. The researchers dug right in, putting cadmium-sensitive yeast cells to the test using a cadmium-hypersensitive strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
In their study, they used four different blueberry extracts to produce various protective effects on cadmium-poisoned yeast cells. Throughout the experiment, they observed that extracts with the highest content of total anthocyanidins provided the most significant protective effects for cadmium-overloaded cells. The extracts also showed protective effects for hydrogen peroxide-damaged cells. In a dose-dependent manner, blueberry extracts and pure cyanidin were both found to be protective within the cells’ walls.
The study, up close
The researchers noticed that the blueberry extracts didn’t reduce the accumulated cadmium but instead protected against the heavy metal’s damaging effects within the yeast cells.
The blueberries studied were of the Brigitta, Duke, Ozark Blue and Simultan varieties.
The cadmium-sensitive yeast cells were incubated by continuous overnight shaking for 16 hours at 28 degrees Celsius. Cells grew relative to the initial density of cells – prior to the addition of blueberry extracts. After incubation, the chemists added the extracts and waited for the cadmium-hypersensitive yeast cells to spread out in soft agar and solidify on special plates. The various blueberry extracts appeared in various amounts at different times. Cellular uptake of the extracts was recorded by measuring the total polyphenol content and total anthocyanidin content.
Cyandin, the main component of blueberry’s anthocyanidin, was directly observed to have protective effects. When 10 µl of cyanidin in a 25% ethanol solution (2 mg/ml) was applied, a halo appeared surrounding the growth zone of yeast cells. This occurred after three days of incubation at 28 °C.
Witnessing cellular protection appear in the form of a halo must have been exciting and interesting.
The cadmium lost its toxic influence in the presence of cyandin as if this blueberry extract created a force field.
The Duke variety of blueberry extract was found to be the most protective, while the extracts from the Brigitta were were less so. None of the extracts eliminated cadmium but instead protected the cells from cadmium damage.
The researchers conclude that pure cyanidin can improve cell viability in the presence of toxic cadmium.Cell life was extended for additional hours even after cadmium chloride was applied to the hypersensitive yeast cells. This research explains how important blueberries are in the fight against modern day heavy metal toxicity.
Equipping the body with the right arsenal of superfoods could make all the difference in a toxic world.
L.J. Devon, Staff
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