Protective Effects of Blueberries on Vascular Function: A Narrative Review of Preclinical and Clinical Evidence

Woolf EK, Lee SY, Ghanem N, Vazquez AR, Johnson SA
Nutr Res. 2023 Dec:120:20-57. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2023.09.007.


Blueberries are rich in nutrients and (poly)phenols, popular with consumers, and a major agricultural crop with year-round availability supporting their use in food-based strategies to promote human health. Accumulating evidence indicates blueberry consumption has protective effects on cardiovascular health including vascular dysfunction (i.e., endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffening). This narrative review synthesizes evidence on blueberries and vascular function and provides insight into underlying mechanisms with a focus on oxidative stress, inflammation, and gut microbiota. Evidence from animal studies supports beneficial impacts on vascular function. Human studies indicate acute and chronic blueberry consumption can improve endothelial function in healthy and at-risk populations and may modulate arterial stiffness, but that evidence is less certain. Results from cell, animal, and human studies suggest blueberry consumption improves vascular function through improving nitric oxide bioavailability, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Limited data in animals suggest the gut microbiome mediates beneficial effects of blueberries on vascular function; however, there is a paucity of studies evaluating the gut microbiome in humans. Translational evidence indicates anthocyanin metabolites mediate effects of blueberries on endothelial function, though this does not exclude potential synergistic and/or additive effects of other blueberry components. Further research is needed to establish the clinical efficacy of blueberries to improve vascular function in diverse human populations in a manner that provides mechanistic information. Translation of clinical research to the community/public should consider feasibility, social determinants of health, culture, community needs, assets, and desires, barriers, and drivers to consumption, among other factors to establish real-world impacts of blueberry consumption.

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