NMR News: Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2010


  To See or Not to See: The Science Behind Bilberry
                            ...
NMR News: Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2010

         A few reports in the literature indicate that         4) Caselli L. 1985...
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Bilberry And Vision March 2010

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To See or Not to See: The Science Behind Bilberry

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Bilberry And Vision March 2010

  1. 1. NMR News: Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2010 To See or Not to See: The Science Behind Bilberry By: Charles Spielholz, Ph.D. B ilberry (genus Vaccinium, several different (2,3). In addition, a mechanism of action has not species with Vaccinium myrtillus being the been established for how bilberry may be most common) is shrub that bears fruit. improving night vision. Clearly, additional research Related to blueberries, the plant is found in establishing both a mechanism of action and England, mainland Europe, Scandinavia, Turkey, employing large scale clinical trials is required and Russia. Because bilberry does not grow easily, before a role can be established for bilberry in night it is not cultivated to any significant extent. Like vision. other edible berries, bilberry fruit can be eaten directly or made into jams, jellies, pie fillings, juice, There has been one report suggesting that or flavors for ice bilberry flavonoids creams, sorbets and provide improvements in other desserts. The intraocular pressure berries of bilberry resulting from glaucoma have been associated (4). However, there has with several health been no follow-up claims regarding evidence in the medical vision. Therefore a literature that confirms brief examination of this 1985 report. these claims will be Reports in the made. literature suggest that a Consumption diet high in of the bilberry plant has been associated with anthocyanosides slowed the development of improvements in vision, protection against cataracts in laboratory rats (5) and propose a glaucoma and the prevention of cataracts. reduction of aldose reductase enzyme activity as a Anthocyanosides, a flavonoid pigment with possible mechanism for this event (6). However, no antioxidant properties found in bilberries, is the significant follow-up research has been reported in component of pharmacological interest. Claims the medical literature since these reports appeared regarding improvement in vision center on in the mid-1980s and there have been no reports improved night vision. However, studies are mixed that tested bilberry extract directly in a clinical trial with one clinical trial indicating an improvement in in the United States. night vision (1) and others indicating no effect 1
  2. 2. NMR News: Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2010 A few reports in the literature indicate that 4) Caselli L. 1985. Clinical and electroretinographic bilberry may protect the retina against damage from studies on activity of anthocyanosides. Arch Med Int. 37: oxidation (7-9), diabetes (10), and angiogenesis 29-35. (11). There have also been reports concerning the 5) Hess HH, Knapka JJ, Newsome DA, Westney IV, significance of diet on inherited retinal dystrophy in Wartofsky L. 1985. Dietary prevention of cataracts in the the rat (12) thus suggesting that diet may play a role pink-eyed RCS rat. Lab Anim Sci. 35:47-53. in the normal health and functioning of the retina. One report suggested that since bilberry extracts, as 6) Chaudry PS, Cambera J, Juliana HR, Varma SD. well as other antioxidants, reduced damage to DNA 1983. Inhibition of human lens aldose reductase by flavonoids, sunindac and indomethacin. Biochem by a certain epoxide (A2E-epoxide) in retinal Pharmacol 32:1995-1998. pigment epithelial cells maintained in the laboratory (8) that it is perhaps not impossible that damage to 7) Jang YP, Zhou J, Nakanishi K, Sparrow JR. 2005. the retina from light induced epoxidation may be Anthocyanins protect against A2E photooxidation and due to a deficiency of antioxidants (8). If further membrane permeabilization in retinal pigment epithelial research proves this relationship to be true, then cells. Photochem Phgotobiol 81:529-536. dietary approaches to retinal diseases, that include 8) Sparrow JR, Vollmer-Snarr HR, Zhou J, Jang YP, bilberry, will be worth exploring. Jockusch S, Itagaki Y, Nakanishi K. 2003. A2E-epoxides damage DNA in retinal pigment epithelial cells. J Biol Evidence indicating a role for bilberry, Chem. 278:18207-18213. either as whole berries or an extract, is still in the early stages. Additional research, including 9) Matsunaga N, Imai S, Inokuchi Y, Shimazawa M, laboratory bench research to elucidate a mechanism Yokota S, Araki Y, Hara H. 2009. Bilberry and its main of action, and clinical trials, to show a benefit to constituents have neuroprotctive effects against retinal vision in humans, are required to unambiguously neuronal damage in vitro and in vivo. Mol Nutr Food verify health claims regarding bilberry and eye Res. 53: 869-877. health. 10) Chung HK, Choi SM, Ahn BO, Kwak HH, Kim JH, Kim WB. 2005. Efficacy of troxerutin on References streptozoctocin-induced rat model in the early stage of 1) Sala D, Rolando, M, Rossi, PL, Pissarello L. 1979. diabetic retoniopathy. Arzneimittelforschuhng 55:573- Effect of anthocyanosides on visual performance at low 580. illumination. Minerva Oftalmol. 91:283-285. 11) Matsunaga N, Chikaraisshi Y, Shimazawa M, 2) Muth ER, Laurent JM, Jasper P. 2000. The effect of Yokota S, Hara H. 2007. Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry) bilberry supplementation on night visual acuity and extracts reduce angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Evid contrast sensitivity. Altern Med Rev. 5:164-173. Based Complement Alernat Med. 7:47-56. 3) Zadok D, Levy Y, Glovinsky Y. 1999. The effect of 12) Pautler EL, Ennis SR. 1984. The effect of diet on anthocyanosides in a multiple oral dose on night vision. inherited retinal dystrophy in the rat. Current Eye Res. Eye (Lond). 13:734-736. 3:1221-1224. 2

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