Sea Buckthorn and Bilberries Improve Metabolic and Heart Health

By Mae Chan

A new study from Finland appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that daily consumption of sea buckthorn berries, its extracts, or bilberries may boost the overall metabolic profiles of women.

Using a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomics, researchers from the University of Turku, the University of Oulu, and Aromtech evaluated the effects of sea buckthorn, select fractions, and bilberry on the overall metabolic profile of overweight women, which has not been investigated by any other group.

Extracts from the leaves of the sea buckthorn plant were previously found to boost exercise capacity and protect against oxidative damagecaused by excessive exercise.

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One month of berry or berry fraction intake was associated with improvements on triglycerides and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) levels, and total cholesterol levels in women, particularly those with a higher cardiometabolic risk. Sea buckthorn is known to contain a large number of nutrients, including vitamins A, K, E, C, B1 and B2, fatty acids, lipids, organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, folic acid, tocopherols and flavonoids, phenols, terpenes, and tannins.

“Even though most of the changes that occurred in individual metabolites were not statistically significant after correction for multiple testing, clear trends accounting for the significant overall effects were observed,” wrote the researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

“Changes induced by berries were different in women who had a baseline metabolic profile that indicated higher cardiometabolic risk than in women who had a baseline profile that reflected lower risk.”

The study was welcomed by Cheryl Myers, Chief of Scientific Affairs and Education at EuroPharma, which produces a number of supplements containing Aromtech’s SBA24 sea buckthorn ingredient used in the Finnish study.

“The science on sea buckthorn continues to give us new insights into the amazing medicinal properties of sea buckthorn seed and pulp oil,” she told us.

“It is important to note that this research used both the seed and berry pulp oil, each of which contains powerful nutrients. In fact, research has shown that this amazing sea buckthorn seed and pulp oil has over 200 nutrients.

“Many sea buckthorn products do not contain both, are not standardized, and do not have the exact clinically studied ratio found only in SBA24.

“We have always known about its tremendous usefulness in addressing dry mucous membrane issues (ie. dry mouth, dry eye, postmenopausal vaginal dryness) and it is gratifying to now see its usefulness in cardiovascular health in a study of slightly overweight women, as well as a slight reduction in waist size in the treatment group,” said Myers.

Study details

The Finnish scientists recruited 80 overweight women for their randomized crossover study. Women were randomly assigned to consume dried sea buckthorn berries, sea buckthorn oil (SBA24, Aromtech), sea buckthorn phenolics ethanol extract mixed with maltodextrin (1:1), or frozen bilberries for 30 days. The metabolomics results showed that all the interventions produced a “significant effect on the overall metabolic profiles”, said the researchers.

Specifically, the sea buckthorn berries induced improvements in triglyceride and VLDL levels of women with higher cardiometabolic risk, while sea buckthorn oil tended to improve total, intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in higher risk women.

On the other hand, the sea buckthorn extract plus maltodextrin was associated with a tendancy to increase VLDL fractions and serum triglycerides levels, an effect linked to the carbohydrate content of this formulation.

Maltodextrin (also: maltrin) is produced enzymatically from starch and is offered as spray dried powder. Maltodextrins are won from starch. Applications of gene technology are possible with plant starch sources, especially for the production of enzymes that solubilise and modify starch. For these reason it is important to be wary of maltodextrins within formulations due to their possible GMO origins.

“In whole sea buckthorn berries, potentially all compounds in the soft parts of the berry, including flavonols, carotenoids, fatty acids, tocopherols, tocotrienos, and phytosterols of the pulp oil, were expected to affect the metabolic profile,” explained the researchers.

Finally, bilberries caused beneficial changes on serum lipids in higher risk women, whereas the opposite was true in women at lower risk.

“The diverse effects of berry fractions according to different baseline metabolome deserve additional studies in larger study populations to allow a more-detailed investigation of baseline-response associations,” they concluded.

Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.

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