Fukushima Radiation Release is Worse than You Have Been Told

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

by Steve Hickey, PhD; Atsuo Yanagisawa, MD, PhD; Andrew W. Saul, PhD; Gert E. Schuitemaker, PhD; Damien Downing, MD

People have been misinformed about the tragedy at Fukushima and its consequences. There is a continuing cover up, the reactors have not been stabilized, and radiation continues to be released. The Japanese College of Intravenous Therapy (JCIT) has recently released a video for people wishing to learn more about how to protect themselves from contamination by taking large doses of vitamin C.

 

 

Japanese Government Minimizes Danger; Ignores Vitamin C

In the fall of 2011, JCIT presented a study that Fukushima workers had abnormality gene expression, which may be avoided using dietary antioxidants, especially vitamin C. The data was presented in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. The JCIT sent letters to the government urging the government to tell the people how they may protect themselves from radiation. To date, the recommendation has been ignored by Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company).

Linus Pauling gained the Nobel Peace Prize in part based on his calculations of the number of deaths from nuclear weapons fallout (1). He was supported by physicist and father of the Soviet bomb Andrei Sakharov, who also later received the Nobel Prize for peace (2). These and other scientists estimated that there would be an extra 10,000 deaths worldwide for each megaton nuclear test in the atmosphere. A nuclear reactor can contain much more radioactive material than a nuclear weapon. Fukushima had six reactors, plus stored additional radioactive material and nuclear waste.

How Radiation Damages Cells

Ionizing radiation acts to damage living tissue by forming free radicals. Essentially, electrons are ripped from molecules. Removing an electron from an atom or molecule turns it into an ion, hence the term ionizing radiation. X-rays, gamma rays, alpha- and beta-radiation are all ionizing.

Most of the damage occurs from ionizing radiation generating free radicals in water, as water molecules are by far the most abundant in the body. While avoiding unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation is clearly preferable, people affected by Fukushima do not have the luxury of avoiding contamination.

Antioxidants: Free-Radical Scavengers

Free-radical scavengers, as the name suggests, mop up the damaging radicals produced by radiation. The more common term for free radical scavenger is antioxidant. Antioxidants replace the electrons stripped from molecules by ionizing radiation. Antioxidants have long been used in the treatment of radiation poisoning (3-7). Most of the harm from ionizing radiation occurs from free radical damage which may be quenched by the free electrons antioxidants provide. Fortunately, safe antioxidants are widely available as nutritional supplements. Vitamin C is the prime example.

Why Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is of particular importance and should be included at high intakes for anyone trying to minimize radiation poisoning. High dose vitamin C provides continual antioxidant flow through the body. It is absorbed from the gut and helps to replenish the other antioxidants. When it is used up, it is excreted in the urine. Importantly, it can chelate, or grab onto, radioactive heavy metal atoms and help eliminate them from the body. Large dynamic flow doses of vitamin C (about 3,000 mg, taken 4 times a day for a total of 12,000 mg) would exemplify antioxidant treatment. Higher doses have been used by Dr. Atsuo Yanagisawa and colleagues (8-9).

Shortly after the disaster, Dr. Damien Downing described how supplements can help protect against radioactive fallout (10). OMNS issued an update on the response to Fukushima in Japan (11). Recently, Dr. Gert Schuitemaker has provided a review of vitamin C as a radio-protectant for Fukushima contamination (12).

Persons living in the areas affected by radioactive contamination can take antioxidant supplements, especially high doses of vitamin C, to counteract the negative consequences of long-term low dose radiation exposure, as well as to protect the health of coming generations.(12, 13). People who have a possible internal or external radiation exposure should take antioxidant supplements to maintain an optimal antioxidant reserve. Because of the enormous size and oceanic spread of Fukushima contamination, this literally applies to everyone.

(Orthomolecular Medicine News ServiceMay 14, 2012)

 

“The International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine is pleased to have participated in the making of this important DVD on the protective effects of intravenous vitamin C on radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011. We are in full support of the valuable work of Dr. Yanagisawa and his colleagues, and we very much appreciate the commitment of Mr. Daisuke Shibata, who has made it possible for the free distribution of the video around the world. May this orthomolecular message raise awareness and foster improvement in the treatment of radiation exposure.”

Steven Carter
Director, International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine

 

References

1. The Nobel Foundation (1962) The Nobel Peace Prize 1962, Linus Pauling Biography.

2. Sakharov A. (1975) The Nobel Peace Prize 1975, Andrei Sakharov, Autobiography.

3. Brown SL, Kolozsvary A, Liu J, et al: Antioxidant diet supplementation starting 24 hours after exposure reduces radiation lethality. Radiat Res 2010; 173: 462-8.

4. Zueva NA, Metelitsa LA, Kovalenko AN, et al: Immunomodulating effect of berlithione in clean-up workers of the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident [Article in Russian]. Lik Sprava 2002; (1): 24-26.

5. Yamamoto T, Kinoshita M et al. Pretreatment with ascorbic acid prevents lethal gastrointestinal syndrome in mice receiving a massive amount of radiation. J Radiat Res (Tokyo) 2010; 51 (2): 145-56.

6. Gaby A. Intravenous Nutrient Therapy: the “Myers’ Cocktail”. Alt Med Rev 2002; 7 (5): 389:403.

7. Narra VR, Howell RW, Sastry KS, Rao DV. Vitamin C as a radioprotector against iodine-131 in vivo. J Nucl Med 1993; 34 (4): 637-40.

8. Yanagisawa A. Orthomolecular approaches against radiation exposure. Presentation Orthomolecular Medicine Today Conference. Toronto 2011.

9. Green MH, Lowe JE et al. Effect of diet and vitamin C on DNA strand breakage in freshly-isolated human white blood cells. Mutat Res 1994; 316(2):91-102

10. Downing D. (2011) Radioactive Fallout: Can Nutritional Supplements Help? A Personal Viewpoint. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 10.

11. OMNS (2012) Vitamin C Prevents Radiation Damage, Nutritional Medicine in Japan. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, February 1.

12. Schuitemaker GE. Vitamin C as protection against radiation exposure. J Orthomolecular Med 2011, 26: 3; 141-145. [Also in Dutch: Schuitemaker G.E. Radioactiviteit in Japan: Orthomoleculair antwoord. Ortho 2011:3, June.

13. Yanagisawa A, Uwabu M, Burkson BE, Weeks BS, Hunninghake R, Hickey S, Levy T, (2011) Environmental radioactivity and health. Official JCIT Statement, March 29.

 

Antioxidant may disrupt Alzheimer’s disease process

According to new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is now the sixth leading cause of death among Americans, affecting nearly 1 in 8 people over the age of 65. There is currently no treatment that alters the course of this disease. However, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that changes in the way the body handles iron and other metals like copper and zinc may start years before the onset of AD symptoms. A new study shows that reducing iron levels in blood plasma may protect the brain from changes related to AD.

In the current study a group of investigators from led by Dr. Othman Ghribi, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Therapeutics, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, rabbits were fed a high-cholesterol diet which caused them to accumulate plaques of a small protein called beta-amyloid (Aβ). These plaques are toxic to neurons and central to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The rabbits also developed changes in tau protein, which is part of the skeleton of neurons. When this protein becomes heavily phosphorylated, the ability of neurons to conduct electrical signals is disrupted. Following treatment with a drug called deferiprone (an iron chelator), the iron level in the rabbits’ blood plasma was reduced and the levels of both beta-amyloid and phosphorylated tau in the brain were returned to normal levels.

Another degenerative process in AD involves the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage neurons in the brain. Deferiprone is also thought to suppress this reactive oxygen damage caused by free iron in the bloodstream, however in this study there was no difference in reactive oxygen species in the treated group. It appears that iron in the AD brain is located in the wrong places – in particular it accumulates to very high levels in the cores of beta-amyloid plaques and is very reactive in this setting.

According to Dr. Ghribi, “Our data show that treatment with the iron chelator deferiprone opposes several pathological events induced by a cholesterol-enriched diet…Deferiprone reduced the generation of Aβ and lowered levels of tau phosphorylation.” While there was no effect on ROS levels, he comments that “It is possible that a higher dose of deferiprone, or combination therapy of deferiprone together with an antioxidant to prevent ROS generation would more-fully protect against the deleterious effects of cholesterol-enriched diet that are relevant to AD pathology.”

Noted expert on metals metabolism research on AD Ashley Bush, MD, PhD, Mental Health Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia, adds that “this research highlights the role of metal ions as key modulators for the toxic interactions of risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, in this case cholesterol. Drugs targeting these metal interactions hold promise as disease-modifying agents.”

 

Reference

Prasanthi JR, Schrag M, Dasari B, Marwarha G, Kirsch WM, Ghribi O. Deferiprone Reduces Amyloid-β and Tau Phosphorylation Levels but not Reactive Oxygen Species Generation in Hippocampus of Rabbits Fed a Cholesterol-Enriched Diet. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]

 

Popcorn: the snack with even higher antioxidant levels than fruits and vegetables

Popcorn’s reputation as a snack food that’s actually good for health popped up a few notches today as scientists reported that it contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables. They spoke at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, being held in San Diego, USA this week.

Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.

In another surprising finding, the researchers discovered that the hulls of the popcorn –– the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth –– actually has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.

“Those hulls deserve more respect,” said Vinson, who is with the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. “They are nutritional gold nuggets.”

The overall findings led Vinson to declare, “Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called “whole grain,” this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”

Vinson cautioned, however, that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image. Cook it in a potful of oil, slather on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters, pour on the salt; eat it as “kettle corn” cooked in oil and sugar — and popcorn can become a nutritional nightmare loaded with fat and calories.

“Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course,” Vinson said. “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”

Likewise, Vinson pointed out that popcorn cannot replace fresh fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, but are missing from popcorn.

Vinson explained that the same concentration principle applies to dried fruit versus regular fruit, giving dried fruit a polyphenol edge. Previous studies found low concentrations of free polyphenols in popcorn, but Vinson’s team did the first study to calculate total polyphenols in popcorn. The amounts of these antioxidants were much higher than previously believed, he said. The levels of polyphenols rivaled those in nuts and were up to 15 times greater than whole-grain tortilla chips.

The new study found that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving. In addition, one serving of popcorn would provide 13 percent of an average intake of polyphenols a day per person in the U.S. Fruits provide 255 mg per day of polyphenols and vegetables provide 218 mg per day to the average U.S. diet.

Michael G. Coco, an undergraduate chemistry student at the University of Scranton who participated in the study, said he benefited in several ways.

“From working on this project with Dr. Vinson, I’ve gained experience and many insights in doing scientific research,” said Coco. “Besides the obvious things like learning how to use instrumentation and perform analyses, I’ve also learned that research is extremely satisfying, especially when you discover or think of something no one else has thought of.”

 

Powerful Antioxidant Resveratrol Prevents Metabolic Syndrome In Lab Tests

Researchers in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta have discovered that resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in common foods, prevents a syndrome in some offspring that could lead to later health issues such as diabetes.

Resveratrol is found in fruits, nuts and red wine, and has been shown to extend the lifespan of many species.

Human offspring that have trouble growing in the womb have an increased risk of developing metabolic problems later in life. But U of A medical researchers Jason Dyck and Sandra Davidge and their teams found that administering resveratrol to the young offspring of lab rats after weaning actually prevented the development of a metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and higher deposits of abdominal fat.

Dyck and Davidge published their findings in a recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes. Dyck is a researcher in the departments of Pediatrics and Pharmacology, while Davidge is a researcher in the departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Physiology. Both are also members of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, as well as the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. Dyck and Davidge were co-senior authors of the study.

The study took advantage of the fact that “infancy is a potential window of opportunity to intervene and prevent the future development of metabolic diseases.” The researchers noted this is the first potential pharmacological treatment that may help babies that developed in a growth-restricted environment in the womb.

“There is a concept that in utero, there are genetic shifts that are occurring – reprogramming is occurring because of this strenuous environment babies are in, that allows them to recover very quickly after birth,” says Dyck.

“When babies are growth-restricted, they usually have a catch-up period after they are born where they catch up to non-growth-restricted groups. It might be that reprogramming that creates this kind of ‘thrifty’ phenotype, where they want to consume and store and get caught up.

“That reprogramming appears to make them more vulnerable to developing a host of metabolic problems.”

Earlier this year, Dyck and Davidge published another paper in Diabetes demonstrating that rat offspring not growing well in the womb had noticeable side effects from high-fat diets after birth – the rats deposited more fat in the abdominal area, developed glucose intolerance, more dramatic cases of insulin resistance and insulin resistance at earlier stages of life.

Dyck and Davidge are continuing their research in this area, examining whether treating the mother during pregnancy can prevent metabolic problems in rat offspring affected by intrauterine growth restriction.

Davidge is an Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions (AIHS) Scientist and a Canada Research Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health. Dyck is an AIHS Senior Scholar and the Director of the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the U of A.

 

Reference 

Dolinsky VW, Rueda-Clausen CF, Morton JS, Davidge ST, Dyck JR. Continued postnatal administration of resveratrol prevents diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rat offspring born growth restricted. Diabetes 2011; 60 (9): 2274-84.

 

Chocolate Is A ‘Super Fruit’

It is widely known that fruit contains antioxidants which may be beneficial to health. New research published in the open access journalChemistry Central Journal demonstrates that chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants and contains more polyphenols and flavanols than fruit juice.

When researchers at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition™ compared the antioxidant activity in cocoa powder and fruit powders they found that, gram per gram, there was more antioxidant capacity, and a greater total flavanol content, in the cocoa powder.

Similarly when they compared the amount of antioxidants, per serving, of dark chocolate, cocoa, hot chocolate mix and fruit juices they found that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and a greater total flavanol, and polyphenol, content than the fruit juices. However hot chocolate, due to processing (alkalization) of the chocolate, contained little of any.

Dr Debra Miller, the senior author of the paper, says that, “Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit” providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition”. Which is great news for chocolate lovers.

 

Reference

Crozier SJ, Preston AG, Hurst JW, Payne MJ, Mann J, Hainly L, Miller DL. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal 2011, 5: 5.

 

Treatment With Vitamin C Dissolves Toxic Protein Aggregates In Alzheimer’s Disease

Katrin Mani, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new function for vitamin C. Treatment with vitamin C can dissolve the toxic protein aggregates that build up in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. The research findings are now being presented in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease contain lumps of so-called amyloid plaques which consist of misfolded protein aggregates. They cause nerve cell death in the brain and the first nerves to be attacked are the ones in the brain’s memory centre.

“When we treated brain tissue from mice suffering from Alzheimer’s disease with vitamin C, we could see that the toxic protein aggregates were dissolved. Our results show a previously unknown model for how vitamin C affects the amyloid plaques”, says Katrin Mani, reader in Molecular Medicine at Lund University.

“Another interesting finding is that the useful vitamin C does not need to come from fresh fruit. In our experiments, we show that the vitamin C can also be absorbed in larger quantities in the form of dehydroascorbic acid from juice that has been kept overnight in a refrigerator, for example”.

There is at present no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease, but the research is aimed at treatments and methods to delay and alleviate the progression of the disease by addressing the symptoms.

That antioxidants such as vitamin C have a protective effect against a number of diseases, from the common cold to heart attacks and dementia, has long been a current focus of research.

“The notion that vitamin C can have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease is controversial, but our results open up new opportunities for research into Alzheimer’s and the possibilities offered by vitamin C”, says Katrin Mani.

 

Reference

Cheng F, Cappai R, Ciccotosto GD, Svensson G, Multhaup G, Fransson LÅ, Mani K. Suppression of Amyloid β A11 Antibody Immunoreactivity by Vitamin C: POSSIBLE ROLE OF HEPARAN SULFATE OLIGOSACCHARIDES DERIVED FROM GLYPICAN-1 BY ASCORBATE-INDUCED, NITRIC OXIDE (NO)-CATALYZED DEGRADATION. J Biol Chem 2011; 286 (31): 27559-72.

 

Antioxidant Spices Reduce Negative Effects Of High-Fat Meal

Eating a diet rich in spices, like turmeric and cinnamon, reduces the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals, according to Penn State researchers.

“Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood,” said Sheila West, associate professor of biobehavioral health, Penn State, who led the study. “If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased. We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.”

West and her colleagues prepared meals on two separate days for six men between the ages of 30 and 65 who were overweight, but otherwise healthy. The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to each serving of the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit. The control meal was identical, except that spices were not included. The team drew blood from the participants every 30 minutes for three hours. They reported their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

“In the spiced meal, we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika,” said Ann Skulas-Ray, postdoctoral fellow. “We selected these spices because they had potent antioxidant activity previously under controlled conditions in the lab.”

When the meal contained a blend of antioxidant spices, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by about 20 percent.

According to West, many scientists think that oxidative stress contributes to heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. “Antioxidants, like spices, may be important in reducing oxidative stress and thus reducing the risk of chronic disease,” she said, adding that the spice dose they used provided the equivalent amount of antioxidants contained in 5 ounces of red wine or 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate.

Skulas-Ray noted that adding two tablespoons of spices to meals did not cause stomach upset in the participants. “They enjoyed the food and had no gastrointestinal problems,” she said. But, she added, “The participants were notified ahead of time that they would be eating highly spiced foods and they were willing to do so.”

In the future, West plans to investigate whether she can get the same results by adding smaller doses of spices to meals.

 

Antioxidants Of Growing Interest To Address Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction

A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help. The study this story is based on is available from ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/nNir7E

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help.

A new analysis, published online in the journal Pharmacological Research, noted that previous studies on the potential for antioxidants to help address this serious and growing problem have been inconclusive, but that other data indicates nutritional therapies may have significant potential.

The researchers also observed that infertility problems are often an early indicator of other degenerative disease issues such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. The same approaches that may help treat infertility could also be of value to head off those problems, they said.

The findings were made by Tory Hagen, in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and Francesco Visioli, lead author of the study at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain.

“If oxidative stress is an underlying factor causing infertility, which we think the evidence points to, we should be able to do something about it,” said Hagen, the Jamieson Chair of Healthspan Research in the Linus Pauling Institute. “This might help prevent other critical health problems as well, at an early stage when nutritional therapies often work best.”

The results from early research have been equivocal, Hagen said, but that may be because they were too small or did not focus on antioxidants. Laboratory and in-vitro studies have been very promising, especially with some newer antioxidants such as lipoic acid that have received much less attention.

“The jury is still out on this,” Hagen said. “But the problem is huge, and the data from laboratory studies is very robust, it all fits. There is evidence this might work, and the potential benefits could be enormous.”

The researchers from Oregon and Spain point, in particular, to inadequate production of nitric oxide, an agent that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. This is often caused, in turn, by free radicals that destroy nitric oxide and reduce its function. Antioxidants can help control free radicals. Some existing medical treatments for erectile dysfunction work, in part, by increasing production of nitric oxide.

Aging, which is often associated with erectile dysfunction problems, is also a time when nitric oxide synthesis begins to falter. And infertility problems in general are increasing, scientists say, as more people delay having children until older ages.

“Infertility is multifactorial and we still don’t know the precise nature of this phenomenon,” Visioli said.

If new approaches were developed successfully, the researchers said, they might help treat erectile dysfunction in men, egg implantation and endometriosis in women, and reduce the often serious and sometimes fatal condition of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy. The quality and health of semen and eggs might be improved.

As many as 50 percent of conceptions fail and about 20 percent of clinical pregnancies end in miscarriage, the researchers noted in their report. Both male and female reproductive dysfunction is believed to contribute to this high level of reproductive failure, they said, but few real causes have been identified.

“Some people and physicians are already using antioxidants to help with fertility problems, but we don’t have the real scientific evidence yet to prove its efficacy,” Hagen said. “It’s time to change that.”

Some commonly used antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, could help, Hagen said. But others, such as lipoic acid, are a little more cutting-edge and set up a biological chain reaction that has a more sustained impact on vasomotor function and health.

Polyphenols, the phytochemicals that often give vegetables their intense color and are also found in chocolate and tea, are also of considerable interest. But many claims are being made and products marketed, the researchers said, before the appropriate science is completed – actions that have actually delayed doing the proper studies.

“There’s a large market of plant-based supplements that requires hard data,” Visioli said. “Most claims are not backed by scientific evidence and human trials. We still need to obtain proof of efficacy before people invest money and hope in preparations of doubtful efficacy.”

About the Linus Pauling Institute: The Linus Pauling Institute at OSU is a world leader in the study of micronutrients and their role in promoting optimum health or preventing and treating disease. Major areas of research include heart disease, cancer, aging and neurodegenerative disease.

 

Latin American Blueberries Found To Be ‘Extreme Superfruits’

Scientists discover high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in two species of neotropical blueberries:

One of the treats of summer—fresh, antioxidant-rich blueberries—has new competition for the title of “superfruit.”

But at least the contenders are keeping the title in the family.

Researchers have found that two species of wild blueberries native to the tropical regions of Central and South America—the New World tropics, or Neotropics—contain two to four times more antioxidants than the blueberries sold in U.S. markets.

This finding is the result of an analysis of the compounds contained in neotropical blueberries grown at The New York Botanical Garden.

The study was conducted by Professor Edward Kennelly, a biologist at Lehman College in the Bronx who is an expert in medicinal plants, and Paola Pedraza, Ph.D., a botanist at The New York Botanical Garden whose specialties include South American blueberry species.

“No one had looked at this,” Dr. Pedraza said. “The results are very promising.”

For their study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the scientists examined five species of neotropical blueberries. The two species that had the highest amounts of antioxidants were Cavendishia grandifolia and Anthopterus wardii.

“We consider these two species of neotropical blueberries to be extreme superfruits with great potential to benefit human health,” Dr. Kennelly said.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with lower incidence of some chronic diseases and may help protect against heart disease, inflammatory ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even cancer.

Of the five neotropical blueberry species used in the study, four came from the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden. One came from the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Although these blueberries are wild species that are not currently commercially available, the scientists believe that they have the potential to become a popular food item or health supplement if their high antioxidant content becomes better known.

“I think it’s just a matter of time until people start working on making them more available,” Dr. Pedraza said.

More than 600 neotropical species are related to the “highbush” blueberries common to the American market. Several of them, including the two most promising species in Drs. Kennelly and Pedraza’s study, are native to the high-elevation forests of the Andes Mountains, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

The discovery that these blueberries have potential benefits for humans underscores the importance of preserving Earth’s biodiversity, Pedraza said.

“There are so many things out there that could have an impact on our lives,” she said. “That’s why we should be worried about conservation in our country and in other countries because you never know when good things will come to light.”