Blueberries are considered a superfood because of their antioxidant power and dense concentration of nutrients. But new research from California Polytechnic State University shows wild blueberries also have the power to help you burn more fat during exercise.
The report recently published in the journal Nutrients showed that wild blueberries appear to have the ability to help accelerate fat oxidation, which is the process of burning fats for energy.
Researchers worked with 11 males who were aerobically fit but not considered elite in terms of their athletic conditioning. Each was given 25 grams of freeze-dried wild blueberries, equivalent to one cup of raw fruit daily, for two weeks. The participants exercised on a bike for 40 minutes while researchers collected urine and blood before and after as well as blood samples every 10 minutes during the workout.
The results showed the participants burned considerably more fat after eating the wild blueberries. The fat oxidation rate rose by 20 percent at the 20 minute mark, 43 percent at the 30 minute mark and 31 percent at the 40 minute mark of cycling, thus confirming the hypothesis wild blueberries increase the ability to burn more fat during moderate-intensity exercise.
Scientists found that while it accelerated fat burning, it also decreased the use of carbohydrates which is a significant benefit for athletes.
"Increasing the use of fat can help performance, particularly in endurance activities as we have more fat stores to keep us going longer than we do carb stores," said Cal Poly’s Taylor Bloedon, the lead researcher. "Saving stored carbs also helps when we need to increase our intensity, often towards the end of the race or training session, or when challenged by an opponent. At these higher intensities we cannot rely on fat to fuel us as fat cannot be used as a fuel source for high-intensity activities."
Bloedon went on to explain another key benefit the team discovered.
"Adding a natural carb source, wild blueberries, increased fat oxidation during exercise," Bloedon said. "Typically, when people want to increase fat oxidation, they drastically decrease carb intake, forcing our body to adapt to use fat. But, as research shows, cutting carbs may lead to negative health and performance outcomes."
Wild blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, the compound that gives fruits and vegetables their red, blue and purple colors. It is theorized that’s what gives them the power to increase fat oxidation.
Bloedon’s time in Maine, which is the country’s largest producer of blueberries, is what inspired her to learn more about their superfruit qualities.
"They have such a diverse and prolific profile of bioactive compounds due to their struggle to survive in the unique and harsh climate of Maine," Bloedon adds. "We benefit from their resiliency and the stress they endure."