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Benefits Of Bilberries

Submitted by Loring A. Windblad on December 23, 2009

Bilberries are native of the Northern hemisphere and are quite sturdy plants that survive on nutrient poor acidic soils. Bilberries have been in the news for their health benefits and these include their antioxidant properties, anti-carcinogenic properties, and their benefits for the heart. This is all because of the presence of a class of chemicals called flavonoids and in bilberries, the active flavonoid is anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is the substance that gives the berries of the bilberry plant its color. It is actually a pigment that is created by nearly every plant on earth with the exception of cacti.

Anthocyanin is used by plants as a kind of sunscreen that protects young leaves and shoots from the effects of ultraviolet radiation and blue-green light.

Flavonoids are known to be of great significance to human health but this is not exactly because of a direct benefit of consuming them. Unlike a direct benefit like eating a strawberry for its vitamin C content, flavonoids help the body by being a foreign body that requires excretion.

When flavonoids are ingested, the body usually metabolizes them away but when flavonoid rich foods or drinks like tea are ingested, the body quickly goes to work to excrete these substances.

This requires the secretion of enzymes that are also responsible for the breakdown of cancer tissue. The flavonoids and other material are then excreted along with uric acid.

Flavonoids from green and black tea are said to be of great benefit for the prevention of lung cancer. Anthocyanin therefore has the same effects.

Bilberries are stated to be of great benefit in the following areas: reducing inflammatory processes, diabetes, infections, neurological disease, and cancer. The benefits of bilberry consumption seem to be at a maximum against cancers.

Bilberries have the maximum effect against cancers by the following mechanisms of limiting growth of cells that are potentially malignant. They also aid in stimulating cancer cells death by apoptosis, reducing some inflammatory mechanisms that can aid cancer, preventing angiogenesis, and minimizing the damage to DNA.

Angiogenesis is the process by which blood vessels start to grow around tumor tissue. These anti-cancer properties along with their antioxidant properties end up ensuring that bilberry consumption is indeed beneficial. Many cardiovascular diseases and cancers can also be prevented by the regular intake of bilberry products. There have been some anecdotal claims made about bilberries also like its improvement of night vision but this is something that is, as yet, unsubstantiated.

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