The USHBC Health Research Committee recently gathered in Tri-Cities, Washington, as part of the annual USHBC Fall Meetings. There was a great deal of research information to share and discuss regarding how the committee can build the blueberry health halo status by expanding, focusing and communicating research efforts on important new health benefits.
This year, results from our large clinical study, the Circle study, which looked at the cardiovascular benefits of consuming blueberries in individuals with metabolic syndrome, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Since then, there has been tremendous coverage both nationally and internationally in multiple forms of media, including newspapers, digital and printed, TV news and magazines.
In addition to the Circle study, other work funded by the USHBC has been published this year, including an article on blueberries and exercise, inflammation and gut-barrier health. Given that the health effects of blueberries have been widely studied by many researchers over the past 20 years, the council brought several experts together to write a review article about blueberries; that article was also recently published. To read this article and others, visit ushbc.org/health and click on “Scientific Studies” to download a list of published USHBC funded studies.
The Health Research Committee works with our Promotions Committee to communicate our research efforts. We also work with our Exports Subcommittee to communicate on an international level. We recently hosted a group of members of Japanese media and invited a couple of our researchers to speak about the effect of blueberry consumption on diabetes and cardiovascular health. The Japanese guests went home and wrote articles about what they learned. We hope to continue these types of events to help educate more international consumers.
Our research program continues to advance our knowledge about blueberries with 12 studies in progress and five new studies recently funded and ready to start this year. The studies are looking at the effect of blueberries in various conditions, including brain health, cardiovascular health, exercise, the gut microbiome and depression.
Our funding cycle continues, and we’ll soon announce our new 2020 funding year by requesting letters of intent from researchers briefly describing their concept research studies on the health effects of blueberries. The letters will be evaluated and a smaller group of researchers will be invited to submit a full research proposal. From these proposals, we’ll select the studies to fund in 2020.
In addition to the studies we directly fund, we’re also involved in other studies that we support by providing either frozen blueberries or our freeze dried blueberry powder. There are currently two large national studies in progress that are providing blueberries to their participants. The MIND study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is investigating the effect of the MIND diet on cognitive health. As berries are an important part of the MIND diet, the USHBC is providing frozen blueberries to help ensure the participants consume blueberries.
In the U.S. Pointer Study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, the researchers are also looking at cognitive health. Participants are spread across the U.S. and are expected to follow the MIND diet, but are required to purchase their own food. In order to encourage blueberry consumption, we worked with researchers to set up a rebate program so that when participants purchase highbush blueberries, they can submit a coupon with their receipt to receive reimbursement.
As we continue to work to maintain the health halo around highbush blueberries, we’re always available to answer your questions! Send your inquiries to the USHBC Health Research Program by emailing us at [email protected]