Health Functionality of Blueberries

in HortScience

Fruit extract of the European blueberry, or bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), is a major component of a great number of pharmaceutical and food supplement products. Compared to most small fruits, bilberry has a high concentration of anthocyanin pigments. Anthocyanins are of biomedical interest due to their properties as antioxidants and protein cross linkers. The major clinical applications for anthocyanins are in ophthalmology, blood vessel and connective tissue disorders, and diabetes. Bilberries are harvested from wild stands throughout Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and at higher altitudes in southeastern France. Because they are wild, a wide array of genotypes make up the commercial product. As part of an investigation of the nutraceutical components of North American wild lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium), we are comparing the anthocyanins and other phenolic components from fruit of commercially available Vaccinium species. We are particularly interested in the variation in composition among Vaccinium clones and species.

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