Purdue University receives $3.7 million blueberry research grant
October 28, 2014

Purdue University received a $3.7 million grant promoting extensive blueberry research.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine approved and granted the sum of money to Purdue researchers to study the effects that blueberries have on bone loss in postmenopausal women.blues copia

The group of Purdue researchers, consisting of professors and graduate students, also partnered with a blueberry genetics group and Indiana University’s school of medicine to receive the most efficient and accurate results. The five-year research plan is set to start on Sept. 30 beginning with studying the actual blueberries.

With over 1,200 types of blueberries, the researchers will be seeking out the types with substances that will have an effect on bones.

“A variety of blueberries have not been tested, which is the unique thing about this project,” said Berdine Martin, the director of the project.

Blueberries have the potential of protecting postmenopausal women from bone loss. During menopause, it is common for hips to lose bone mass.

“If we can find out the mechanism behind how berries work, then I think it will be more likely to be adopted and a public message will follow, encouraging people to eat berries,” said Connie Weaver, head of nutrition science and one of the project’s researchers.

Although blueberries are the selected fruit to be tested, they are not the only fruit that can have an effect on bone loss. When the NIH initially looked at Purdue’s grant request, they had a suggestion of their own.

“Even though plums have an effect on bones, they requested that the study be concentrated to blueberries, since more people seem to eat them,” said Weaver.

Weaver published an animal study comparing plums and blueberries, finding that plums affected bone growth the most. In that study, Weaver only used one type of blueberry, so the results of a larger scale blueberry study may differ.

An animal study will be conducted in which rats will consume the blueberries. Martin will oversee the animal and clinical studies as well as recruit human subjects to consume the products that have a certain blueberry extract in them. Martin will begin putting up flyers around campus, posting online and placing advertisements in the newspaper to recruit subjects.

“We want to get away from drugs and take a natural product approach,” said Weaver. “We want to focus on prevention through eating healthy, which is what I love about nutrition.”

The researchers will provide publications each time a new experiment is finished. When they have completed all their research, a final report will be returned to the NIH.