Study finds blueberry-enriched diet may boost muscle growth, repair in women


A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition investigated how serum from subjects consuming a diet enriched with blueberries would affect the cells responsible for muscle growth and repair.

The study was conducted over six weeks with 22 women, 12 ages 25-40 years old and 10 ages 60-75 years old. For the blueberry-enriched diet, participants consumed the equivalent of 1.75 cups of fresh blueberries per day, given as freeze-dried blueberries with 19 grams in the morning and 19 grams in the evening, along with their regular diet. Participants were also asked to avoid other foods rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins.

Serum was obtained from the participants 1.5 hours after consuming the morning dose of blueberries. The researchers then investigated how the serum would affect muscle progenitor cell function through proliferation or cell number, capacity to manage oxidative stress, and oxygen consumption rate or metabolism.

The results showed the six-week blueberry-enriched serum obtained from the women ages 25-40 years old increased human muscle progenitor cell numbers in culture. There was also a trend toward a lower percentage of dead human muscle progenitor cells, suggesting a resistance to oxidative stress, as well as increased oxygen consumption of the cells. There were no beneficial effects seen in the muscle progenitor cells treated with serum from participants ages 60-75 years old who consumed the blueberry enriched diet.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, muscles lose strength, flexibility, and endurance over time. Muscle mass decreases three to five percent every decade after 30 years old, and that rate increases over age 60 years old. Therefore, strategies to improve muscle progenitor cell proliferation and lower oxidative stress may also benefit muscle regeneration during the aging process.

Research on the role that blueberries may play in promoting good health is ongoing across multiple areas, including cardiovascular health, diabetes management, brain health, exercise, and the gut microbiome.

"The consequences associated with the deterioration of skeletal muscle are a loss of mobility, decreased quality of life, and ultimately, loss of independence,” said Anna Thalacker-Mercer, PhD, the study's lead investigator, in a statement. “Currently, research on dietary interventions to support skeletal muscle regeneration in humans is limited. This preliminary study of muscle progenitor cell function paves the way for future studies to develop clinical interventions. While the results cannot be generalized to all populations, this study is an important step in translating findings from cell culture and rodent studies to a potential dietary therapy for improving muscle regeneration after injury and during the aging process."