As new research emerges on the surprising benefits of blueberries, physicians and natural healers alike are beginning to recommend consuming them as a natural way of slowing age-related decline. But recent studies have shown that this familiar, tasty little berry has more to offer than its healthful compounds – which include such powerful antioxidants as quercetin and anthocyanins.
A specific substance found in blueberries can actually activate three different pathways involved in aging – and may significantly prolong life.
Pterostilbene can fight cancer and heart disease by mimicking caloric restriction
Pterostilbene, found exclusively in blueberries, has been shown in studies to induce apoptosis – programmed cell death – of malignant cells, and to act against tumors. At the same time, it prevents the buildup of cellular waste and protects fragile endothelial cells in the arteries, thereby decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis.
In addition, pterostilbene has the ability to mimic the effects of calorie restriction, which scientists say enhances anti-aging factors in the cardiovascular system, neurological system and bloodstream and activates genes related to long-term survival.
Although caloric restriction can offer major preventive and therapeutic benefits – with many natural health experts maintaining that it slashes the risk of many chronic diseases in half – few people are able to voluntarily restrict their food intake enough to realize the benefits.
The good news is: you don’t have to. Certain nutrients are very successful at mimicking the effect of calorie restriction – including whey protein, quercetin, resveratrol, grape seed extract, black tea extract and fisetin. Pterostilbene, however, is among the most effective.
Pterostilbene acts on three key pathways that extend life
Pterostilbene limits the expression of the mTOR signaling pathway, which helps to regulate the growth, survival and proliferation of cells. However, when this pathway malfunctions, it can trigger the development of cancer and other chronic degenerative conditions. Suppressing the mTOR signaling pathway has been shown in animal studies to extend lifespan – in fact, scientists say that inhibiting the pathway by 25 percent can translate to a 20 percent increase in lifespan.
Pterostilbene also increases activity of the AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) pathway, which regulates production of energy, reduces chronic inflammation, lowers levels of blood sugar and fats in the blood, and reduces stores of body fat.
Not surprisingly, sluggish AMPK activation – which occurs with age — causes weight gain and accelerated aging. Enhancing valuable AMPK activity can improve memory while suppressing the formation of beta-amyloid plaque and tau tangles – both indicators of Alzheimer’s disease – and can cause an additional 20 percent increase in lifespan.
The third and final pathway that pterostilbene can modulate is the sirtuins pathway. Anti-aging sirtuin molecules regulate DNA repair, and help to maintain telomere length – an important longevity factor. By stimulating a molecule called sirtuin-1, pterostilbene protects heart cells from dying – to such an extent that researchers are currently hopeful that pterostilbene has the potential to mitigate heart muscle injury following heart attack.
And pterostilbene also has another beneficial effect on heart health. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, researchers discovered that pterostilbene causes significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Resveratrol and pterostilbene – the power of two
Resveratrol, a beneficial flavonoid and another caloric restriction mimetic, has been found to work synergistically with pterostilbene – each increasing the effect of the other to form a potent combination.
Found in red wine, grapes and berries, resveratrol has shown promise in fighting cancer and diabetes – and in helping to prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. And the latest research suggests that this powerful duo could be a promising therapy for treating breast cancer cells, when used along with standard anti-hormonal therapy.
Laboratory studies show impressive results
In a study published in BMC Cancer, researchers noted that a combination of resveratrol and pterostilbene helped to down-regulate a sirtuin molecule called SIRT1 – combating breast cancer cells by interfering with their telomerase activity, inhibiting their growth and causing cell cycle arrest.
The breast cancer cells inhibited by the combination were of a notoriously aggressive type known as triple-negative. Researchers expressed hope that the combination could be used in future recalcitrant triple-negative breast cancer cell prevention and therapy.
Blueberries may alleviate dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
With tens of millions of elderly people worldwide suffering from dementia, researchers have been exploring the use of natural substances to prevent and alleviate age-related cognitive disorders. A recent study showing that pterostilbene can prevent the loss of dopamine in the memory centers of aged rats is an encouraging development, and research is ongoing.
Although pterostilbene is a key constituent of blueberries, it is not the only beneficial polyphenol. In a review published in British Journal of Nutrition, the authors noted that blueberries are also extremely rich in anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, arbutin and myricetin – antioxidants which have strong neuroprotective effects, and can prevent age-related change in the brain and improve cognition.
How can I get maximum health benefits from blueberries?
Naturally, you can make sure you consume healthy amounts of fresh blueberries or blueberry juice to get the benefits of all the combined polyphenols, which include pterostilbene, resveratrol and quercetin – a virtual trifecta of life-prolonging compounds.
Pterostilbene is also available in standardized formulas – for best results, opt for a formulation that includes resveratrol.
Whey protein – which contains all 18 amino acids plus the anti-aging antioxidant glutathione – makes a stellar accompaniment to blueberry powder products.