A compound in blueberries shows promise in preliminary laboratory studies of lowering cholesterol as effectively as a commercial drug and has the potential for fewer side effects, according to a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The compound, pterostilbene, has the potential to be developed into a nutraceutical for lowering cholesterol, particularly for those who don't respond well to conventional drugs used for this purpose, the researcher says. Findings were described today at the 228th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. "We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease, which are leading killers in the U.S.," says study leader Agnes M. Rimando, Ph.D., a research chemist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). She works at the ARS' Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Miss. Researchers have suspected for some time, based on anecdotal studies, that blueberries may play a role in lowering cholesterol, says Rimando. Pterostilbene is an antioxidant that is similar to resveratrol, another antioxidant identified in grapes and red wine that is also believed to lower cholesterol. Other researchers have found pterostilbene in grapes, but this is the first time it has been found in blueberries, says Rimando. She and her associates earlier showed that this compound may help fight cancer. Pterostilbene has been reported previously by others to have anti-diabetic properties as well, informs Medical News. According to Forbes, Blueberries, already the darlings of the fruit world for their potential disease-fighting ability, may have yet another compound to help lower cholesterol. A compound called pterostilbene performed better, at least in a lab study with rats, than a common cholesterol-lowering drug. The compound might someday prove especially useful for people who don't respond well to conventional anti-cholesterol drugs, according to a study presented Monday at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Philadelphia. "I compared pterostilbene with ciprofibrate [a cholesterol-lowering drug] and found that actually pterostilbene is a little bit better," said Agnes M. Rimando, a research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. Rimando hopes pterostilbene has the potential to be developed into a drug for lowering cholesterol. It might also join the list of "nutraceuticals" -- foods with health-promoting or disease-preventing properties. Guardian Unlimited reports that Dr Rimando told the American Chemical Society's conference in Philadelphia: "We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease." She has already suggested that pterostilbene may have properties that protect against cancer and diabetes. But she warned that, until studies had been completed in humans, no one could know how many blueberries people might have to eat to lower levels of the "bad" form of cholesterol or fatty substances known as triglycerides. A drug called ciprofibrate is used for this purpose, but it can cause muscle pain and nausea. Dr Rimando believes the blueberry compound targets the liver cell receptor more effectively.
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