Blueberries have prebiotic potential and can improve gut health, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found.

Researchers at the University of Maine in US studied blueberry impact on gut microbial population dynamics and gastrointestinal health in Sprague Dawley rats.

For six weeks, they fed one group of rats a control diet and another group a diet enriched with lowbush wild blueberries (LWB). They found wild blueberries have prebiotic potential. A prebiotic is a plant fibre that promotes growth of good bacteria in the colon, thereby promoting digestive and health benefits.

Vivian Chi—Hua Wu, an associate professor of microbiology and food safety said the “addition of LWB to diet can alter the balance of gut microbe in favour of members of the Actinobacteria phylum,” which have known impacts on human health.

Xenobiotic (chemicals foreign to the body) biodegradation and metabolism were significantly greater in rats that ate the LWB—enriched diet, Wu said.

In addition, the team found lower levels of Enterococcus (bacteria sometimes responsible for infections) in rats that ate an LWB—enriched diet.

This, she said, suggests the “protective anti—inflammatory effect of blueberries can be accredited to microbial metabolism, which is dependent on the composition of the microbiota (gut flora).”

“While a direct link between gut microbial function and LWBs perceived health effects have not been concretely established,” Wu said these findings can be used to “design diet interventions that aid in promoting gut health and homeostasis.”

Wu conducted the research with Alison Lacombe, Dorothy Klimis—Zacas, Aleksandra Kristo, Shravani Tadepalli, Emily Krauss and Ryan Young from UMaine, as well as Robert Li, a research molecular biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

(This article was published on July 8, 2013)
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