Blueberries could provide an alternative way to lower cholesterol, according to US researchers.
A compound in the fruits acted as effectively as a commercial drug used to reduce levels of the "bad" form of cholesterol in rodents.
Although the results are preliminary, the Department of Agriculture team thinks the antioxidant ingredient could be developed as a treatment.
They presented their findings to an American Chemical Society meeting, told BBC.
The compound, known as pterostilbene, appears to have many of the same cholesterol-fighting properties found in the antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in grapes and products like red wine, and led to wide reports that red wine was heart-healthy.
Resveratrol also shows up in blueberries, but Agnes Rimando, a research chemist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, found that the pterostilbene in certain types of blueberries had a much more notable effect.
Pterostilbene works in much the same manner as the popular anti-cholesterol drug ciprofibrate, sold commercially as Modalim. It binds to and activates a cell receptor known as PPAR-alpha, which research shows to be a key component in the body's ability to reducing cholesterol, reported MSN.
In laboratory studies done with colleagues at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, Rimando exposed rat-liver cells to four compounds found in blueberries. Of the four, pterostilbene showed the highest potency in activating a receptor that plays a role in reducing cholesterol and other fat in the bloodstream.
The compound was at least as effective as ciprofibrate, one of the drugs used to reduce low-density or bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and more effective than resveratrol.
Ciprofibrate sometimes causes side effects such as muscle pain or nausea, however. The researchers believe that by targeting a specific cell receptor, the blueberry compound would have fewer side effects, according to Newsday.
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