Cholesterol Fighter? Compound in blueberries shows great promise

A compound in blueberries shows promise of lowering cholesterol as effectively as a commercial drug and has the potential for fewer side effects, according to a researcher with the US Department of Agriculture. The compound, pterostilbene, could be used for those who don’t respond well to conventional drugs, the researcher says.

“We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease, which are leading killers in the US,” says study leader Agnes M. Rimando, PhD.

Researchers have suspected for some time, based on anecdotal studies, that blueberries may play a role in lowering cholesterol, says Rimando.

Pterostilbene is an antioxidant that is similar to resveratrol, another antioxidant identified in grapes and red wine that is also believed to lower cholesterol. Other researchers have found pterostilbene in grapes, but this is the first time it has been found in blueberries, says Rimando. She and her associates earlier showed that this compound might help fight cancer. Pterostilbene has been reported previously by others to have anti-diabetic properties as well.

Pterostilbene was similar in activity to ciprofibrate, a commercial drug that lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. But ciprofibrate, whose mechanism of action on cells is less specific, can have side effects such as muscle pain and nausea. Pterostilbene, which targets a specific receptor, is likely to have fewer side effects, Rimando says, adding that the compound did not show any signs of cell toxicity in preliminary studies.

American Chemical Society, Aug 23, 2004