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Fermented Blueberry and Blackberry Drinks May Help Diabetics Decrease Their Blood Sugar

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University of Illinois (UI) scientists have discovered that bioactive compounds in Illinois blueberry and blackberry wines are as effective at blocking enzymes that cause blood sugar to rise as the anti-diabetes drug acarbose, states a UI press release.

The discovery may lead to a delicious way for diabetics to reduce their blood sugar. Food chemist and UI Professor Elvira de Mejia is looking to remove the alcohol from the wines, allowing the beverage's carb-degrading and inflammation-reducing properties to work, while also providing a host of other benefits like enhanced cognition and brain health and protection against effects of aging.

"We're thinking about a dealcoholized fermented fruit beverage that would optimize the inhibition of the alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes and also make use of the wines' other healthful bioactive components," said de Mejia.

In the in vitro study, 19 Illinois wines were evaluated for nutritional value, and graduate student Michelle Johnson found a blueberry-blackberry blend to be most effective.

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Scientists discovered the ability of the wines to inhibit enzymes responsible for carbohydrate absorption and assimilation was 91.8 percent for alpha-amylase compared to acarbose and 103.2 percent for alpha-glucosidase compared to the anti-diabetes drug, de Mejia said.

The study is the first to assess the anti-carb effectiveness of berry fermentation at different temperatures. Both room and cold (4 degrees Celsius) temperatures proved berry wine retains its ability to degrade the enzymes, de Mejia noted.

Researchers are additionally experimenting with the berries' effects on reducing inflammation, which contributes to the development of many chronic illnesses, including cancer, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disease.

"Preliminary studies have indicated that anthocyanins may have a positive effect on cognition and overall brain health while protecting against some of the effects of aging, such as Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. These berries have some very intriguing components," de Mejia said.

Studies detailing this research were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Food Science and in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.