Phytochemical composition and metabolic performance-enhancing activity of dietary berries traditionally used by Native North Americans

J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):654-60. doi: 10.1021/jf071999d. Epub 2008 Jan 23.


Four wild berry species, Amelanchier alnifolia, Viburnum trilobum, Prunus virginiana, and Shepherdia argentea, all integral to the traditional subsistence diet of Native American tribal communities, were evaluated to elucidate phytochemical composition and bioactive properties related to performance and human health. Biological activity was screened using a range of bioassays that assessed the potential for these little-known dietary berries to affect diabetic microvascular complications, hyperglycemia, pro-inflammatory gene expression, and metabolic syndrome symptoms. Nonpolar constituents from berries, including carotenoids, were potent inhibitors of aldose reductase (an enzyme involved in the etiology of diabetic microvascular complications), whereas the polar constituents, mainly phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins, were hypoglycemic agents and strong inhibitors of IL-1beta and COX-2 gene expression. Berry samples also showed the ability to modulate lipid metabolism and energy expenditure in a manner consistent with improving metabolic syndrome. The results demonstrate that these berries traditionally consumed by tribal cultures contain a rich array of phytochemicals that have the capacity to promote health and protect against chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Reductase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Anthocyanins / analysis
  • Diet*
  • Elaeagnaceae / chemistry
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Prunus / chemistry
  • Rosaceae / chemistry
  • Viburnum / chemistry


  • Anthocyanins
  • Flavonoids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Aldehyde Reductase