Blueberries for IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like other autoimmune diseases, is difficult to treat. One review found that one class of drugs used to treat IBD, tumor-necrosis factor antagonists, aren’t effective at all for about 10 to 30 percent of patients right off the bat. And up to 46 percent of patients – almost half – lose response to anti-TNF medication over time. Fortunately, a favorite in the produce aisle at your grocery store, may be able to help.

While blueberry compounds are well known for helping preserve vision and reduce inflammation in the brain, they may also have positive effects for those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel diseases are some of the most difficult to treat with conventional medications because of the nature of autoimmune conditions. While some prescription drugs try to modulate an immune response that is ultimately harmful, it can also leave people open to increased risk of infections and other diseases.

This laboratory study found that blueberry extract reduced inflammatory markers in colon cell lines and reduced the levels of oxidative stress that could lead to IBD symptoms. This anti-inflammatory action from blueberry compounds may provide individuals dealing with stubborn IBD issues a new, safe and effective alternative.


Driscoll K, Deshpande A, Datta R, Ramakrishna W. Anti-inflammatory Effects of Northern Highbush Blueberry Extract on an In Vitro Inflammatory Bowel Disease Model. Nutr Cancer. 2019 Oct 7:1-13.

Blueberry anthocyanins have the ability to efficiently reach the GI tract and exhibit a broad range of biochemical effects. In the context of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), they remain a promising complement to current IBD treatments. Here, we investigated the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities of Highbush blueberries in-vitro on two normal colon epithelial cell lines, NCM 356 and CCD 841 CoN using fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry following stimulation with a pro-inflammatory cytokine cocktail. Treatment with blueberry extract revealed a significant decrease in nuclear and cytoplasmic generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) compared to controls. Additionally, the blueberry extract increased cell viability following treatment with the pro-inflammatory cytokine cocktail. A comparison with previous report on rice callus suspension culture (RCSC) revealed opposing trend with reference to the levels of nuclear and cytoplasmic ROS. It is likely that blueberry extract and RCSC employ different players and pathways to mitigate inflammation.