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Pennington Center Study: Blueberries Improve Pre-diabetic Condition; Results Published in The Journal of Nutrition

Released: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BATON ROUGE, LA- New research findings reveal that one of America’s favorite colorful fruits, blueberries, have properties that help to improve factors related to pre-diabetes and decrease inflammation in obese men and women. Chronic low-grade inflammation related to obesity contributes to insulin resistance, a major factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. “This is an excellent example of the importance of clinical trials to building our knowledge-base in helping to improve public health,” said Steven Heymsfield, PBRC Executive Director.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC) conducted the blueberry study in a clinical trial with participants who had insulin resistance, a condition present in pre-diabetes. The results of the Center’s study are highlighted in the October edition of The Journal of Nutrition.

According to PBRC, the study was conducted over a six week period with 36 obese subjects diagnosed with insulin resistance, but who had no evidence of type 2 diabetes. The participants were assigned randomly either a blueberry-rich or nutritionally equivalent blueberry-free smoothie twice daily over the 42 day period.

“The participants who consumed the blueberry smoothies had improved insulin sensitivity compared to those consuming no blueberries,” said PBRC researcher Dr. April Stull. Type 2 diabetes and obesity are characterized by elevated blood sugar and represent a public health crises in the United States. Obesity and diabetes can lead to serious health consequences, including blindness, poor circulation, and premature death.

Although researchers have discovered that certain foods have both blood glucose-lowering and anti-inflammatory effects in experimental animals, few studies have been done in humans, according to the Journal article. “We now know that compounds in blueberries may help obese, non-diabetic individuals maintain healthy blood glucose levels,” said Dr. Stull. PBRC is urging additional research to determine whether the same effects would be found in people with type 2 diabetes.

The study was conducted in the PBRC’s Botanical Research Center, led by Dr. William Cefalu, who holds the Douglas L. Manship Professorship in Diabetes. The Center recently received National Institutes of Health funding in a new five year grant to study nutritional supplements.

Diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and related health conditions are the focus of the Botanical Research Center.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.