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Caution: Blueberries Are Healthy!

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed in the July 19-20, 2008 issue. Reprinted on page 11 in the July 4-5, 2009 issue. Reprinted on page 8 in the August 1-2, 2009 issue of The Mississauga News under the feature: Health, Wellness & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

I had a patient bring in a bottle of capsules for me to evaluate. They had the appearance of grass clippings wrapped in a plastic coating. The sort of thing I usually find lying around a forensic scene. The money-back promise on the label suggested that the contents contain substances that might fight cancer, might reduce heart disease and might quell inflammation. My task seemed to be whether the $52 spent at the health store was going to make a difference to this person's health, and more importantly, could it be harmful? The first thing that struck me was that the patient paid substantially more for the pills than OHIP would pay for an evaluation of them. Strangely, the patient felt better after taking a single capsule. Personal empowerment is an amazing thing. This sort of thing seems to catch the eye of habitual junk mail readers. One day I suppose we will all undergo an epiphany that something radical must be done about our ageing and abused body. Years of stuffing it with toxic and deleterious substances must be met with daunting determination to make things right. You drive, not walk, down to the that cornucopia of magical pills called a health-food store and have the carefully trained clerk recommend the perfect plastic bottle full of cures especially for you, and then part with your money. Your pride beams during the drive home, since you now are finally on the way to health salvation. I often wonder why health food stores lack fresh foods? And why do they resemble one-stop no prescription needed pharmacies? This can't be the way of things to come.

On closer examination, the label of this particular cure suggested that the 6-ounce product was full of "beneficial" flavonoids. That works out to about $130 per pound. My method of choice to obtain the same flavonoids would consist of simply eating blueberries, cherries or apples. Flavonoids is a term that refers to thousands of substances found in our foods that can act as antioxidants. All this means is that they have some ability to help us process the other junk we eat so that it minimizes its damaging effects on various body structures and systems caused by unstable oxygen molecules. Oxidants are notorious for leading to inflammation, so flavonoids can act as anti-inflammatories. Darker skin and brightly colored fruits are excellent sources. Pomegranate, blueberries, cinnamon, green tea and apples are excellent sources. Higher concentrations are found in the skin of the fruit. Humans do not require tremendous amounts of flavonoids to derive benefits. By eating at least five fruit products a day is an excellent start.

Where I feel attention should be drawn is reducing the load of undesirable foods that require detoxifying in the first place. I see little need for quick fixes via supplements particularly when we have the largest array of fresh food availability on the planet. Flavonoids probably work best when ingested in the natural state as opposed to a processed powder. I commended my patient for trying to take health prevention steps, but the experience made me realize how difficult it is for the average person to implement the exploding scientific knowledge in a practical way. I suggested that the next 52 dollars be spent on pomegranate juice and a few sessions with a qualified dietician. Obtaining good practical dietary advice is another sore point in our health care system. The number of hospital-based dieticians was slashed in the 1990s and they are still viewed as a luxury by hospitals and health boards. By the way, my hockey buds will be pleased to learn that beer hops is yet another good source of flavonoids!

Related resources:

Blueberry - Nutrients and phytochemicals, Potential anti-disease effects from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Blueberries May Banish Belly Fat: Diet Rich in Blueberries May Boost Heart Health by Jennifer Warner, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, WebMD Health News.

Health Benefits of Blueberries from HubPages.

What Are the Health Benefits of Blueberries? By Jennifer Moll, About.com. Health Benefits of Blueberries Extend to Lowering Your Cholesterol.

Blueberries nutrition facts.

Top 10 health benefits of Blueberries from WomenFitness.net.

Blueberry Tea Benefits by Janet Mulroney Clark, eHow Editor.

Health benefits of blueberries by Veronica Shine.

Berries May Help Keep Brain Sharp Study: Blueberries, Strawberries Show Benefits for Aging Brain in Tests on Rats from CBS News.

New USDA Study Shows Blueberries' Anti-Aging Potential. The #1 Antioxidant Activity Fruit May Help Fight the Effects of Aging. Article - circa September 1999.

Flavonoid from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Antioxidant Activities of Flavonoids by Dr. Donald R. Buhler and Dr. Cristobal Miranda, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University. Flavonoids are compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and certain beverages that have diverse beneficial biochemical and antioxidant effects.

Flavonoids: Antioxidants Help the Mind by Erik Strand, from Psychology Today. Naturally occurring plant pigments, flavonoids are one of the reasons fruits and vegetables are so good for you. Among the many benefits attributed to flavonoids are reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and stroke.

What Are Flavonoids? from WiseGeek.com. Flavonoids are plant nutrients that when consumed in the form of fruits and vegetables are non-toxic as well as potentially beneficial to the human body. Foods that contain high amounts of flavonoids include blueberries, red beans, cranberries, and blackberries.

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