Bilberry extract helps control blood sugar levels in mice, researchers have found.
Bilberry and other brightly colored foods such as blueberries, purple grapes, cherries and cranberries contain anthocyanins, which are thought to reduce blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce obesity in laboratory mice.
To study these effects further, Japanese researchers used mice genetically predisposed to develop diabetes. The mice were fed either a diet containing bilberry extract (27 grams per kilogram) or their normal diet for five weeks.
The study authors found that bilberry extract lowered blood glucose and increased insulin sensitivity in the mice. It did this by activating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in white adipose (fat) tissue, skeletal muscle and the liver, the researchers explained. AMPK stimulates fat breakdown in liver and muscle, and modulates insulin secretion by the pancreas.