Bilberries have positive effects in acute and chronic diarrhea. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) report on improved symptoms upon ingestion. Bilberries contain approximately 10% of anthocyanins (ACs), which have anti-oxidative, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties. We investigated whether experimental colitis can be ameliorated by dried bilberries or ACs. Acute and chronic dextrane sodium sulphate (DSS) colitis were induced in Balb/c mice by 2.5% DSS in the drinking water. Mice were fed with dried bilberries or ACs, respectively. Cytokines were determined in supernatants from mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) by ELISA and apoptosis was investigated by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase biotin-dUTP nick end labeling assays. Oral administration of bilberries during acute DSS-induced colitis ameliorated disease severity and reduced secretion of IFN-γ and tumor necrosis factor from mesenteric lymph node cells. Dried bilberries also improved chronic DSS-colitis. Ingestion of ACs reduced intestinal inflammation in acute and chronic DSS-colitis with decreased histological scores and cytokine secretion. Both bilberries and ACs prevented inflammation-induced apoptosis in colonic epithelial cells. Taken together, ingestion of dried bilberries had positive effects on various parameters especially in acute DSS-colitis. Oral administration of ACs resulted in an amelioration of acute colitis as well as chronic colitis. These promising results justify a clinical study on their therapeutic effect in inflammatory bowel disease patients.
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