For Heart Health, Try Blueberries

Dr. April Stull’s family affectionately calls her the "Queen of Blueberries," for her love of studying the small bluish berry. Stull has found success studying the berry, including evidence that the fruit is effective in improving insulin sensitivity in people with prediabetes. Recently, Stull's work revealed another noteworthy benefit of the fruit: it can improve our heart health and potentially reduce our risk for cardiovascular troubles down the road.

Stull and her research team, including Dr. William Cefalu, Pennington Biomedical’s executive director, found that 73 percent of people who were at risk for developing heart disease showed improvement in endothelial function (or blood vessel function) after consuming two blueberry smoothies daily for six weeks.

In short, an improvement in endothelial function means an improvement in blood flow within blood vessels throughout the body. Stull and her team measured the small arteries in one finger of each participant to measure how endothelial cells were regulating blood flow and pressure from the heart to other important tissues in the body. Looking at how the endothelium is functioning provides a strong indicator of overall heart health.

Stull hopes to expand her blueberry research to lengthier studies, which will give her team a better idea of whether blueberries have lasting advantages.

To find out more about how you can participate in Pennington Biomedical’s research studies, visit www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA or call 225-763-3000. You can also read the full results of Stull’s study here.



Louisiana Plants as Therapy?

You may lovingly tend to them in your vegetable or flower garden, or you might walk right past them in your neighborhood and not even notice, but to some scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, native Louisiana plants are worth their weight in gold. A number of Louisiana plants that have been used for centuries as folk medicine are now the starting point for new therapies that may end up treating diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. Each day, researchers in Pennington Biomedical’s Center for Research on Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome (BRC)—one of only three centers of its kind in the country—conduct pioneering research on plant extracts to decipher whether the plant shows promise at the cellular level in treating chronic disease.

Thanks to a newly-awarded five-year, $9.2 million grant renewal from the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the work will continue as Pennington Biomedical’s scientists work to target the root cause of chronic illnesses and create therapies that help people live longer, healthier lives.