Blueberries, a known superfood, have a multitude of health benefits, and new research now adds to the list of their potential healthful advantages. Blueberries appear to help burn body fat, a finding that may prove to be particularly helpful for endurance athletes.
Chock-full of antioxidants, these unassuming little berries fight off harmful molecules in the body that can cause cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and memory loss. They also have been found to slow the aging process.
Researchers at Humboldt State University wanted to see whether wild blueberries affected body fat. Eleven healthy and aerobically trained men took part in the study. They ate 25 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberries every day for two weeks, about the same amount as a cup of raw berries. Then they exercised on a bike for 40 minutes. Blood and urine samples were taken before and after exercise. And blood samples were also collected every 10 minutes during the exercise.
Eating a cup of wild blueberries every day for two weeks improved the body’s ability to burn fat during moderate intensity exercise.
But that’s not all. Lead researcher, Taylor Bloedon, explained that burning more fat caused the body to use less carbohydrate, something that benefits athletes involved in endurance activities. “Increasing the use of fat can help performance, particularly in endurance activities as we have more fat stores to keep us going longer than we do carb stores,” Bloedon, an associate professor of Kinesiology at Cal Poly Humboldt, said in a statement.
“Saving stored carbs also helps when we need to increase our intensity, often towards the end of the race or training session, or when challenged by an opponent. At these higher intensities we cannot rely on fat to fuel us as fat cannot be used as a fuel source for high-intensity activities,” she added.
While many athletes may want to reduce their intake of carbohydrates to force the body to burn fat, the practice can lead to health problems and poorer performance. Wild blueberries are a natural source of carbohydrates that appear to increase fat burning during exercise and spare carbohydrates until they are needed as fuel.
The antioxidant anthocyanin may be what’s behind blueberries’ role in increasing fat burning. It is the antioxidant that gives blueberries — and other fruits and vegetables — their blue, red and purple colors. Anthocyanin is found in other berries such as raspberries, elderberries and blackberries, as well as in red and black grapes, so though it’s not yet proven, these fruits may help burn fat, too.
The study is published in Nutrients.