(NaturalHealth365) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of the American population over the age of 40 is currently obese – with potentially life-threatening consequences. Yet, to this day, we still don’t hear enough from physicians about the value of a better diet – including the consumption of berries on a daily basis.
Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and dementia.
Thankfully, there’s new evidence on the health toll of obesity is emerging, with researchers finding that fat cells can trigger inflammation – now understood to be a root of most chronic disease conditions.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at why eating berries is so good for your health. (But, first, a word about fat cells.)
Fat cells can trigger chronic and systemic inflammation
It turns out that fat cells – or adipocytes – are responsible for a lot more than the mere storage or release of energy (as previously believed.) In obese individuals, fat functions and reacts almost like a separate and complete organ of the body, causing systemic changes.
Recent research is helping scientists gain insight into why this occurs.
In a new study published in Cell Metabolism, researchers were surprised to find that obesity makes fat cells act as if they’re “infected.”
In other words, fat cells are capable of producing the same complex of proteins that they would release if under pathogenic attack by viruses or bacteria. This inappropriate response causes overexcited immune cells to react with a “runaway immune response,” triggering inflammation throughout the body.
In addition, obesity – around the abdomen, in particular – is associated with increased plasma concentrations of free fatty acids, which impair insulin sensitivity in the muscles and the liver – a situation which may increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
Strange but true: Eating berries can cause pro-inflammatory “white fat” to act more like “brown fat”
Also surprising is the fact that researchers have learned that there are two types of body fat: harmful “white” fat and beneficial “brown” fat. While white fat releases harmful inflammation-promoting chemicals, brown fat promotes fat-burning for energy (not storage of fat) and actually improves insulin sensitivity.
Incidentally, brown fat is found in human babies and in hibernating animals. Researchers only recently learned that it exists in adults as well.
Plus, researchers say that anthocyanin-rich berry extracts give white fat cells some of the beneficial qualities of brown fat – reducing the size of fat cells, enhancing insulin sensitivity and generally improving metabolic status and condition.
In these ways, natural berry extracts help limit the negative effects of obesity.
In one study, strawberry and blueberry extracts reduced weight gain and fat storage while lowering the insulin levels of animals being fed a high-fat diet.
And, in a study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that hamsters given mulberry extract for 12 weeks experienced lowered body weight and visceral fat, along with decreased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Berry extracts owe much of their therapeutic powers to anthocyanins, a family of natural antioxidant plant pigments that give fruits their intense colors. And, they can benefit us in a surprising variety of ways.
Berries help restore the health of the gut microbiome, protect arteries and lower excess cholesterol levels
Obesity tends to disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome – the community of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract (and without which we could not function). While disruption of the gut microbiome contributes to inflammation, supplementation with blueberry extract has been found to reduce inflammation by improving bacterial balance and composition.
Berry supplements also reduce metabolic endotoxemia, in which toxic bits of bacterial membranes enter the bloodstream by way of a “leaky gut” (increased intestinal permeability).
Interesting to note: eating blueberries has been found to prevent damage and reduce inflammation in the fragile linings of arteries.
Yet another “berry extract benefit” is increased activation of AMPK, an important enzyme which promotes youthful cellular metabolism. In fact, in a randomized placebo-controlled trial, researhers found that a mixture of several different berry anthocyanins reduced inflammatory markers in people with high cholesterol.
Berries extracts are an important ally against fatty liver disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming increasingly common throughout the United States. Some experts say this condition may affect up to 25 percent of the population!
Keep in mind, the soaring NAFLD rates are linked to the skyrocketing national incidence of obesity – with excess caloric intake the major culprit.
Although NAFLD can be quite mild and even asymptomatic, severe cases can lead to a more serious condition known as NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. NASH, in turn, can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer.
And, back to the value of berries: berry extracts are showing their ability to prevent the accumulation of fats in the liver and even help to clear existing fat deposits – thereby slowing the progression of NAFLD to NASH.
In one study, people with NAFLD who ate currants experienced significant drops in their fasting blood sugar and inflammatory cytokine production. The currant group also displayed lower body fat, smaller waist circumference and improved liver appearance on ultrasound.
While all fresh berries feature anthocyanins that can reduce oxidative stress and ease liver disease, mulberries and mulberry extracts seem to be especially effective in the prevention and treatment of liver ailments.
What’s the best way to reap the health rewards of berries?
Although eating healthy amounts of fresh, organic strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, blackberries and other berries offers a wealth of health benefits, experts say that it is uncertain whether the average person can consume enough of them for therapeutic effects against obesity and metabolic conditions.
In fact, it’s possible to have “too much of a good thing,” as overconsumption of any fruit can end up being too much sugar intake for some people. But, you can bypass this problem neatly by using high-quality berry extracts from a reputable supplier.
Not only can they help you avoid the calories and sugars in fresh berries, but they are more cost-effective, more convenient and have a longer shelf life. And, yes, you can “mix and match” different types of berries for their individual health benefits.
Of course, we always like to remind you: If you’re dealing with a serious health condition – check with a trusted healthcare provider to discuss what’s best for you.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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