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This Berry-Based Compound May Help Manage IBD, Researchers Say

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
hands holding blueberries

When news comes out about the health benefits of fan-favorite foods, it's a sweet added bonus. The latest ingredient that may be even healthier than we originally thought? None other than the summer sweetheart, blueberries.

Researchers at Tokyo University of Science have spent years investigating phytocompounds (the compounds that give plants their positive effects) of different foods, and this week, they published research identifying a compound in blueberries with some serious potential health ramifications.

What did the researchers find?

The compound of the moment is called pterostilbene (PSB). Though PSB is not a new discovery, this is the first time researchers have explored its immunosuppressive properties. The Tokyo University of Science team figured out that PSB has similarities to resveratrol (RSV), the antioxidant that people cite as the basis for the supposed health benefits of red wine.

"RSV, a polyphenol, was known to have pronounced immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects on animal models of colitis ulcer," says Takuya Yashiro, Ph.D., study author. "Therefore, we investigated the possibility of other compounds structurally similar to RSV as a new type of treatment for IBD."

When a person has IBD, their gut often has ulcers due to chronic inflammation, which is caused by an elevated immune response. After analyzing the impact of a range of plant-derived compounds on the immune response, Yashiro's team found that PSB was able to calm it down. This led them to believe that the plant compound could be an inroad to potential new treatments for IBD symptoms.

They are now testing the efficacy of PSB as a treatment for IBD by administering it to mice. Because the compound is naturally found in foods, it's readily absorbed by the body—in mice, and likely in humans, making it a great candidate for drug development.


Does that mean eating blueberries can help with IBD?

The PSB naturally present in blueberries probably won't have any real impact on IBS symptoms on its own. However, that doesn't mean that blueberries can't be a part of a gut-friendly diet.

According to Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., who has spent his career researching the human microbiome and mycobiome, berries are great for the gut. That being said, it's important not to overdo it in the berry department. Integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D., reminds us that a varied diet is an essential part of overall gut health. So load up on the blueberries—but maybe throw some raspberries in your cart too.

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