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A Foot Soldier in the Fight Against Obesity?
CHORI Scientists Garner Grant to Investigate Blueberries and DNA Damage

April, 2013 – CHORI scientists Bruce Ames, PhD, Ashutosh Lal, MD, Joyce McCann, PhD, and their colleagues have recently garnered a grant from the US Highbush Blueberry Council, a national blueberry growers organization established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that funds research to explore potential health benefits of blueberries. The grant, called Highbush blueberries, the DNA-damage of obesity, somatic mutations and metabolic syndrome funds a placebo-controlled clinical trial in obese insulin resistant adults that will test the degree to which blueberry consumption reduces DNA damage and insulin resistance, both of which are very high in the obese.

“The study may help us identify a possible mechanistic connection between DNA damage and insulin resistance that could have important implications for public health and for understanding the mechanisms of obesity-associated diseases,” says CHORI Assistant Staff Scientist and grant collaborator Jung Suh, PhD. "We think that blueberry consumption may improve both insulin resistance and DNA damage, and that those effects may be secondary consequences of decreasing oxidative stress.”

“We think that blueberry consumption may improve both insulin resistance and DNA damage, and that those effects may be secondary consequences of decreasing oxidative stress.”



Obesity and the complications that accompany it, including metabolic syndrome a group of risk factors which together increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Many researchers believe the increased obesity is tied to the effects of the standard American diet, which is very high in calories, fat and sugar, but low in fiber and micronutrients.

The current study is part of the CHORI-bar research program, led by Dr. McCann, which is focused on investigating the beneficial effects of a low-calorie, high-fiber, fruit-based nutrient-dense bar developed in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Designed to address the gaps in the American diet, the CHORI-bar has been shown to improve virtually all biomarkers that characterize metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that together increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

"One aspect of the CHORI-bar research program is to deconstruct the bar that is, to understand how individual components contribute to its bioactivity," says Dr. McCann. "Blueberries comprise a significant part of the fruit in the bar, and by undertaking this study, we will be able to better understand how the blueberry component of the bar may be contributing to these beneficial effects."

The randomized, double-blinded placebo-controlled trial will test whether blueberries consumed at reasonable dietary levels in the form of a freeze-dried powder improve both biomarkers of metabolic syndrome and evidence of DNA damage/repair in obese or overweight individuals. Utilizing a variety of metabolic assays developed by Dr. Suh, as well as a sophisticated panel of DNA damage and repair assays established in the Ames lab by Rhonda Patrick, PhD, and Swapna Shenvi, PhD, the group will be able to detect the effects of blueberry consumption on oxidative stress and different aspects of DNA damage, particularly those that have the greatest chance of being converted into mutations that can lead to serious disease.

“If the project is successful, it will provide new information on the bioactivities of an important component of the CHORI-bar and may also provide evidence pertinent to understanding relationships between DNA damage/repair and metabolic syndrome,” says Dr. Lal.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:28 PM

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