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Mixed Berries Reduce Obesity Damage

November 2018

By Steve Collins

Obesity contributes to practically every disease associated with aging.

Just losing weight is not always enough to overcome the damage caused by inflammatory fat cells.

Berry extracts contain bioactive compounds called anthocyanins that help combat the harmful effects caused by excess weight.

Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid that give berries their bright red, blue, and purple colors.

What has excited researchers is that a mixture of berries has been shown to reduce the size of fat cells.

Berry extracts do this by giving stubborn white fat cells some properties of brown fat, which promotes fat burning and improves insulin sensitivity.1,2

As a result, mixed berries can play a role in limiting the systemic damage caused by obesity and foster metabolic improvements.

For those who want to avoid the sugars contained in fresh berries or are unable to consume up to a pound a day of expensive fresh berries, standardized extracts from berries are a great alternative.

What you need to know

  • Obesity drives body-wide inflammation that accelerates aging and raises the risk for practically every chronic, age-related condition.
  • Berries are rich in polyphenols called anthocyanins that can safely and effectively reduce the inflammation caused by obesity.
  • Berries and berry extracts have been shown to reduce insulin resistance, lower cholesterol levels, and slash liver fat accumulation—benefits that, taken as a whole, would be of crucial importance for anyone with type II diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Mixed berry extracts are a practical and affordable way to access the high polyphenol content that can protect our bodies from excessive harmful fat and chronic inflammation, and can lower our risk of age-related degenerative diseases.

Why Obesity is So Dangerous

Why Obesity is So Dangerous  

The worst consequences of obesity have nothing to do with appearance.

In obese people, fat cells churn out damaging inflammation. This chronic low-grade inflammation causes cell damage that speeds aging. It also contributes to heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and diabetes.3

The connection between obesity, inflammation, and disease is so uniquely damaging that scientists have coined a new term—meta- inflammation—to describe the chronic metabolic inflammation driven by obesity.3,4

Suppressing—or preventing—meta-inflammation is now a hotly pursued way to combat obesity and its consequences.3

Combatting Obesity-Induced Inflammation

Compounds found in berries called anthocyanins have the ability to safely reduce the risk of obesity—as well as the problems it can cause.3,5,6

These compounds have properties that tune up the entire metabolic process and help limit aging.

While some studies in animals show that anthocyanins contribute directly to weight loss, there's a bigger picture to consider.

The great value in these plant extracts is in their ability to disrupt the vicious cycle of obesity and inflammation.

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that oral administration of a mixture of berry anthocyanins improved multiple health indices—including a dramatic reduction in inflammatory markers—in individuals with high cholesterol.7

Because berries aren't always available, and not everyone wishes to consume them in the quantities required to deliver their benefits, mixed berry extracts are an excellent and affordable way to gain access.

Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

Not all body fat is the same.

White fat makes up the majority of the fat in the body. When people gain weight, it is generally the result of an accumulation of excess white fat. In obesity, white fat releases harmful inflammation-promoting chemicals that promote metabolic dysfunction. In this way, white fat drives the destructive cycle of obesity and inflammation.3

Brown fat, on the other hand, is beneficial because it burns calories for energy, rather than storing them. It also produces negligible inflammation.

Until recently, scientists believed brown fat was only found in infants and hibernating animals. We now know that this beneficial (brown) fat is found in human adults as well, where it has numerous health benefits.

Even more exciting, scientists have discovered that it is possible to give harmful white fat properties of beneficial brown fat—and berries contain compounds that enable the body to do just that.

Berries Promote "Good" Fat

Berries have been shown to promote brown fat-like properties in white fat.1,2

This produces numerous metabolic benefits throughout the body, including reducing the size of fat cells, suppressing inflammation, and improving insulin sensitivity (in obesity and insulin resistance, fat cells notoriously lose their capacity to respond to insulin).1

Remarkably, they also increase activation of AMPK, the universal energy regulator that promotes youthful cellular metabolism (fat-burning and limited fat storage, rapid intracellular cleanup, reduced sugar production).1,2,8,9

Reducing Inflammation in the Gut

Another consequence of obesity and high-fat diets is a disruption in the gut microbiome (the community of microbes living in the intestinal tract). This is yet another factor that contributes to obesity-induced meta-inflammation.

Blueberry supplementation has been shown to improve the composition of the gut microbiome and reduce inflammation in obese animals fed a high-fat diet.10

In addition, blueberry supplemented animals showed favorable improvements in markers of insulin sensitivity.10

Another way berry supplements prevent inflammation is by reducing metabolic endotoxemia, a condition in which toxic bits of bacterial membranes make their way into the circulation via leaky gut, and then provoke body-wide inflammation.11

Human Studies

Human studies bear out these preliminary findings, showing that berry supplementation produces important metabolic improvements that can lower the risk of disease.

In one study, adults with abdominal obesity and high blood lipids supplemented with freeze-dried strawberries. After 12 weeks, they experienced decreases in total and LDL cholesterol with improved LDL cholesterol particle size, compared with control subjects.12

Particle size is important because the larger the particle size, the lower the cardiovascular risk.

In another study, obese adults who took a strawberry-cranberry polyphenol extract for six weeks experienced improved insulin sensitivity compared with control subjects.13 When insulin sensitivity is improved, sugar can be removed from the bloodstream more efficiently, and insulin levels remain lower.

Keeping insulin levels to a minimum is essential in preventing multiple problems associated with meta-inflammation and obesity, including metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, and even cancer.

Preventing Obesity-Induced Diabetes

Preventing Obesity-Induced Diabetes  

Obesity is a major risk factor for type II diabetes, which in turn is a massive risk factor for the heart, brain, and liver disorders that accelerate aging and shorten lifespans.

Chronically high blood sugar levels cause proteins to undergo chemical changes that promote inflammation, resulting in stiffening blood vessels, damaged brain cells, and fattened livers.14-17

Berries and their extracts may have a beneficial impact on the interaction of the obesity-inflammation-type II diabetes connection, with important benefits for aging adults carrying extra pounds.

In a study of animals fed a high-fat diet, adding freeze-dried strawberry and blueberry extracts to the animals' diets reduced weight gain and the animals' body fat percentage, while also lowering insulin levels.

Lower insulin levels reflect an improvement in insulin sensitivity. This improvement in insulin metabolism likely accounts for the beneficial effects on weight and body fat.18

Insulin resistance is the driving factor that leads to type II diabetes.

In another study, freeze-dried red raspberries produced similar results, significantly lowering blood sugar and decreasing insulin resistance in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity and inflammation.19

Diabetes-Related Heart Problems

Type II diabetics have a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Chronic exposure to elevated levels of both sugar and fats contributes to endothelial dysfunction.20,21

When applied to human arterial cells in culture, blueberry metabolites prevented endothelial damage and the inflammation that occurs as a result.

Blueberry metabolites also restored normal structure of the vessel walls that assures vascular integrity and flexibility.20,21

They also prevented inflammatory cells from binding to diabetics' vessel walls.21 This is an important finding that suggests that blueberry metabolites reduce the tendency to form artery-clogging plaques.

Diabetes-Related Memory Problems

People with type II diabetes and those with metabolic syndrome develop cognitive dysfunction, which may lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.22-24

Working memory, which is important for reasoning and decision-making, is an early victim of diet-induced obesity and diabetic changes.

Supplementing with a berry beverage based on a mixture of berries has been shown to improve working memory. Supplemented subjects also had lower blood sugar and insulin levels compared to controls.25

Unfortunately, the study required that subjects consume nearly a pound of fruit per day to achieve the high polyphenol intake necessary to obtain these benefits.25

Berries Block Fatty Liver

A serious potential complication of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by fat accumulation in the liver.

NAFLD is a massive source of inflammation and liver cell damage. Left unchecked, it can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a highly inflamed state that can progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, and even liver cancer.26

One study found that simply adding a type of berry to the diet produced substantial benefits in patients with NAFLD.

These results were seen in a study in which two groups of people with NAFLD ate identical diets, but one group included currants (dried berries).27

The group eating the currants experienced drops in fasting blood sugar and inflammatory cytokine levels, while the control group experienced no such improvements. Those eating the berries also had lower body fat, waist circumference, and fat on the lower part of the body—and saw improved liver appearance on ultrasound.27

If these changes could be sustained by continued consumption of currants, or perhaps by the active constituents in currants, this dietary intervention may represent a way to prevent progression to more aggressive liver disease and fibrosis.

In another study, people using purified anthocyanins from bilberry and black currants experienced reductions in blood markers of liver cell damage and oxidative stress compared with placebo.26

Best Sources for Anthocyanins
Best Sources for Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins have tremendous potential to reduce misery and disease. The primary dietary sources of anthocyanins are dark fruits, especially berries.28-32

Even if Americans increase their consumption of cherries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and others, few will be able to do it consistently enough to substantially affect healthy aging. Overconsumption of any fruit, even including berries, can overload the body with fructose (fruit sugar).

Fortunately, anthocyanin extracts can achieve similar benefits to berries themselves. Interestingly, because these highly concentrated anthocyanin extracts are inherently stable; they cost less when taken as supplements compared to buying fresh fruits that spoil rapidly.

Summary

blackberries  

Obesity contributes to chronic disorders that accelerate aging. In obesity and insulin resistance, fat tissue releases cytokines that contribute to a state of chronic inflammation, increasing the risk for all manner of age-related diseases.

Berry extracts help combat obesity-driven inflammation. They are rich in anthocyanins and other molecules that intervene at multiple points in the obesity-inflammation-disease cascade.

Berries and berry extracts have been shown to produce favorable changes in body weight, fat mass, and liver fattiness. They can help prevent type II diabetes by lowering insulin levels and improving insulin resistance, and may protect against the heart- and brain-damaging effects of obesity and diabetes.

As we age, we are more likely to become overweight or obese, which curtails our chances for long life. Anthocyanin-rich berry extracts can help counteract the negative effects of obesity.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

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