PhotoIt seems not a week goes by without another medical study singing the praises of blueberries. The tiny fruit, rich in antioxidants, is credited with a multitude of health benefits, from slowing the aging process to improving memory and vision.

The problem is, not enough consumers know about it. At least that's the conclusion of a researcher at the University of Florida, who quizzed a wide range of people about their blueberry knowledge.

The researcher team talked to more than 2,000 people in 31 states – mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest – about their understanding of the health benefits of blueberries. Most had heard that blueberries were effective in warding off cancer and could help lower the risk of heart disease.

But the study also found a knowledge gap among socio-economic groups. In particular, low-income consumers were less aware of blueberry health benefits.

“People being more familiar with blueberries as deterrents for cancer and heart disease may be related to the high general awareness of these two diseases,” said researcher Shuyang Qu. “The fact that cancer and heart diseases are the leading causes of death in America may have led to more personal research related to preventing the diseases, leading to the respondents being exposed to these findings more than other benefits.”

The benefits

In fact, blueberries have been credited with a wide range of health benefits over the years. Here are a few:

  • In 2011 researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center found that as little as a cup of blueberries a day can help prevent cell damage linked to cancer. The researchers credited the fruit's antioxidants, flavonoids, and other vitamins with helping to prevent cell damage.
  • In 2012 a study published in the medical journal Annals of Neurology credited flavonoids contained in blueberries with having the potential to reduce inflammation in the body. The researchers concluded that reduction in inflammation helped prevent cognitive decline in seniors.
  • In 2013 a study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that regular long-term wild blueberry diets could help improve or prevent problems associated with the metabolic syndrome, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • In 2015 several studies linked daily blueberry consumption to reduced blood pressure and arterial stiffness. For good measure, the antioxidants in blueberries are linked to the prevention/delaying of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and the aging process.

A main purpose of the Florida research is to demonstrate to Florida blueberry growers that they could be moving a lot more product if they did a better job of promoting it. For consumers, the takeaway might be that adding blueberries to their diets could carry some long-term health benefits.

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