Beneficial blueberries and smart e-bandages
May 1, 2023 | View PDF
Powerful benefits from wild blueberries for older adults
New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition further supports daily consumption of wild blueberries for improving memory, brain function and blood pressure in older adults. A 12-week clinical trial called BluFlow, led by Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, an associate professor in Nutrition at the Department of Nutritional Sciences of King’s College London, investigated the cognitive and vascular benefits of daily wild blueberry consumption in healthy older adults.
The BluFlow, double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial focused on healthy older men and women between the ages 65 and 80. Participants were divided into two groups with one receiving a beverage made with 26 grams of freeze dried whole wild blueberry powder (equivalent to about 3/4 cup whole berries, or 178 grams of fresh blueberries), and the other group receiving a placebo. Both groups consumed their beverages daily at the same time over the course of 12 weeks.
Scientists found that daily wild blueberry supplementation for 12 weeks led to improvements in cognitive and vascular function. Specifically, those who consumed the wild blueberry beverage daily exhibited improved memory, improved accuracy, quicker reaction time on various tasks, improved peripheral vascular function, and lower blood pressure.
“In terms of vascular function, our results reinforce what we’ve found before in younger populations, which is that consuming wild blueberries improves blood vessel function as well as lowers blood pressure,” said Dr Rodriguez-Mateos. “We think the effects are driven by the blue pigments in blueberries, the anthocyanins, and we found increases in their metabolites in the blood and urine of the volunteers consuming wild blueberry.”
The study also documented increases in some beneficial bacteria in the gut that seem to be driven by wild blueberry consumption, although larger studies are needed to confirm the role of the gut microbiota on the beneficial effects, according to the researchers.
Smart bandages improving care in new ways
Most of the time, when someone gets a cut, scrape, burn or other wound, the body takes care of itself and heals on its own. But this is not always the case. Diabetes can interfere with the healing process and create wounds that will not go away and that could become infected and fester.
These kinds of chronic wounds are not just debilitating for the people suffering from them. They are also a drain on healthcare systems, representing a $25 billion financial burden in the U.S. alone each year. However, a new kind of smart bandage developed at Caltech may make treatment of these wounds easier, more effective and less expensive.
“There are many different types of chronic wounds, especially in diabetic ulcers and burns that last a long time and cause huge issues for the patient,” said Wei Gao, an assistant professor of medical engineering at Caltech. “There is a demand for technology that can facilitate recovery.”
Unlike a typical bandage, which might only consist of layers of absorbent material, the smart bandages are made from a flexible and stretchy polymer containing embedded electronics and medications. The electronics allow the sensor to monitor for molecules like uric acid or lactate and conditions involving pH levels or temperature in the wound that may be indicative of inflammation or bacterial infection.
The bandage can respond in several ways. It can transmit the gathered data from the wound wirelessly to a nearby computer, tablet or smartphone for review by the patient or a medical professional. Further, it can deliver an antibiotic or other medication stored within the bandage directly to the wound site to treat the inflammation and infection. Amazingly, it can apply a low-level electrical field to the wound to stimulate tissue growth resulting in faster healing.
In animal models under laboratory conditions, the smart bandages showed the ability to provide real-time updates about wound conditions and the animals’ metabolic states to researchers, as well as offer speed healing of chronically infected wounds.
“We have showed this proof of concept in small animal models, but down the road we would like to increase the stability of the device and also test it on larger chronic wounds because the wound parameters and microenvironment may vary from site to site,” said Gao.
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.