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Blueberries & Bone Health

Dr. Warner here –


Today, we are discussing the benefits of blueberries in regards to promoting bone health, especially during menopause.

Ovariectomy-induced bone loss is that bone loss believed to be from a lack of estrogen. This is a model often used to study bone loss from any causes of declining serum sex hormones, specifically in post menopause. The balance between daily bone formation and normal destruction is tilted in favor of less formation with the loss of sex steroids. There is a decrease in sites for stem cells to bind and differentiate into bone-forming cells with an increase in resorption from this decline of hormonal production.

Bone & Collaegen Loss

Bone is formed of collagen type 1 (Col1). Normally, Col1 induces local stem cells to become bone forming cells by way of specific binding sites in the matrix. However, with the loss of sex steroids and other reasons, sometimes senescence is caused instead of bone formation. Senescence is the irreversible stoppage of division of the cells. 

This type of bone loss causes enhanced collagen degeneration of bone matrix. There are very significant losses of collagen Type 1 and Sirt1 genesCollagen type 1 is the main protein of bone. Sirt1 is an anti-aging gene. There are increases in the creation of senescence marker collagenase as well. Senescence is the death of cells. Collagenases are enzymes that degrade proteins; in this case collagens are degraded. 

A study in rats from the journal Age in 2013 showed that those with ovariectomy-induced bone loss did very well if fed blueberries for about 2 weeks. In a lab, bone forming cells were treated with blood from an ovariectomy rat and other cells were treated with blood from a rat with an ovariectomy but also fed a blueberry diet. The bone cells began to display senescence when treated with blood from the first group. However, the blueberry fed group did not show senescence. The rats were fed blueberry up until puberty in this particular study. 

Bone cells that begin to degrade have less Sirt1 expression. These same cells have more activity of p53p16 and p21; p53p16 and p21 are all associated with senescent cells.   

Beneficial Blueberries

Blueberries have been shown to promote bone formation.

Blueberries do this by stimulating the formation of bone-forming cells from stem cells by way of the polyphenols of the berry. Eating blueberries during early life seems to be bone protective. Studies have shown that feeding animals blueberry-supplemented diets for a bit before puberty or from weaning to adulthood can stop bone-forming cells from entering senescence normally caused by loss of hormones. The anti-senescent activity of blueberries is similar to resveratrol. Certain phytochemicals, like blueberry phenols, are felt to contribute to bone development and mass (in addition to known dietary requirements like calcium).  

The dietary effect of blueberries on the development of bone and the later prevention of bone senescence is from epigenetic change. Specifically, there is epigenetic modification of senescent specific genes such as sirt1Sirt1 is important for metabolic balance. Sirt1 is also thought to be the link between caloric-restriction diets and long lifespan. The loss of hormones normally deactivates the Sirt1 gene. However, a blueberry-supplemented diet seems to protect from this.   

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Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of Well Theory and The Healing Sole. She is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.

She is on a mission to disrupt traditional medicine practices and promote betterment physically, spiritually and mentally to many more people. She advocates for wellness and functional health over big pharma so more people can age vibrantly with more function and less pain.

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